Beer in Ford Stadium not a home field advantage

One of the things that I have learned with certainty is that change happens. For example, despite my hard fought denials, this year’s SMU Homecoming will represent the 25th anniversary of my 1988 graduating class and the fact that many of us now have our own college aged children. We have all changed.

When I think back to the mid-1980s and my time as an SMU football player and then survey the campus today, it is impossible not to recognize just how much SMU and our football program have changed too.

We wore blue jerseys, played our historical rivals in one of the strongest conferences in the country (The Southwest Conference), and played home games at Irving’s Texas Stadium in front of 60 thousand fans.

Today we wear red jerseys, rarely play our historical rivals, have wandered through two lesser conferences before landing in the newly created American Athletic Conference, and play home games on campus at 32 thousand capacity Ford Stadium.

Not everything has changed though. One of the things that has been a constant over the years is the controversy surrounding beer sales at home games and whether or not it affects our attendance.

Back in the ‘80s “beer buses” transported students from campus to Irving in a sort of rolling tailgate party. Once inside the “dry” stadium, no alcohol was sold and the party toned down a bit. Fans could not leave the stadium to go back and forth to the buses and their beer.

So, for the most part the party inside the stadium was centered on the action on the field. We did our best to deliver, but I remember many times looking up at the student section and noting how they were more busy socializing than cheering for us. This didn’t bother anybody. Bottom line they were having fun, they were there and we appreciated it. I don’t think the lack of alcohol in the stadium affected our high attendance numbers. Of course the buses weren’t leaving until the game was over, so we had a kind of
captive audience.

In recent years our old rolling tailgates have been replaced with on campus “Boulevarding” and it seems to me that the food, beverages, bathroom facilities and environment are all much improved.

At game time fans are supposed to walk the short distance from Bishop Boulevard to Ford Stadium, but I confess sometimes it is difficult to break off from the socializing and the fun to catch the opening kickoff. When I look around, I see thousands of fellow Mustang fans still on the Boulevard with the same problem. The Boulevard has developed a kind of captive audience of its own.

To encourage fans to leave the Boulevard, some have pushed the need to sell beer inside Ford Stadium. Most likely beer sales would be attractive to some fans, but it is just as likely it would drive other fans away. The strategy we choose to draw our fans into Ford should focus on things we all agree on and not on things that will divide us.

We need to make sure we continue to improve our play and put an entertaining and winning product on the field. We need to create a better team relationship between the coaches and players, and us fans. And we also need to continue to improve the fan experience inside the stadium. These objectives can be met and offer a higher probability of success than the hope that beer sales will fill up our stadium.

Things do change, and maybe someday we should sell beer in Ford Stadium. But I would much prefer we do it because we want to and not because we think we need to.

David Blewett is a former SMU football player and author of “The Pony Trap: Escaping the 1987 Death Penalty.”

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