Pressure Grows to Expel Beer Advertising from NCAA Basketball

College Presidents, Athletic Directors, and Coaches Appeal to NCAA


WASHINGTON—When the executive committee and Division I board of directors of the National Collegiate Athletic Association meet for their annual gatherings in Indianapolis on August 7, it is likely they will have to take a hard look at the organization’s policies on advertising alcoholic beverages during the "March Madness" national championship basketball tournament.

This week, 60 Division I college presidents, 240 college athletic directors, and 101 football and basketball coaches from around the nation urged the NCAA and its president, Myles Brand, to end beer advertising on NCAA sports telecasts. Since 2005, more than one-third (358) of the colleges in the NCAA have endorsed a "College Commitment" pledge to eliminate alcohol advertising in televised college sports.

"It’s refreshing to see so many college presidents, athletic directors, and coaches standing up for what’s best for their institutions, sports programs, and student athletes," said George A. Hacker, director of the Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Even officials at many major sports powerhouses, which derive some revenue from beer advertising, recognize the hypocrisy and illogic of the NCAA’s sell-out to beer peddlers."

Former U.S. Representative Tom Osborne, past head football coach and current Athletic Director at the University of Nebraska, has been a strong proponent to add beer advertising to the list of products that are not allowed during broadcasts of NCAA sporting events. In a letter to NCAA president Myles Brand, Dr. Osborne stated support for curtailing beer advertisements based on the "overwhelming evidence that alcohol is harmful to college students and young people in general."

In their letters, the college officials asserted that current NCAA policy allowing beer ads is inconsistent with the mission and values of higher education and sports and undermines colleges’ effortsto prevent and reduce alcohol problems among college students and underage youth. Those problems are among the most costly and persistent issues facing college administrators today.

More than 40 percent of college students binge drink—consuming five or more drinks on at least one occasion in the past 30 days. Among college students between the ages of 18 and 24, alcohol is involved in approximately 599,000 injuries, 696,000 assaults, 97,000 sexual assaults, and 1,700 deaths from unintentional injuries, including from car crashes, each year.

The coaches' letter to Myles Brand, which included signers from Florida State University, University of Memphis, Georgetown University, The Ohio State University, Tulane University, The Citadel, Stanford University, the United States Air Force Academy, the University of Virginia, and the University of Washington, expressed concern about the prominence of alcohol advertising in televised college sports and stated that "student athletes competing in NCAA sporting events should not be associated with the very product that causes them the most harm and is clearly not in their best interests."

According to TNS Media Intelligence, two beer marketers—Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing—spent nearly $30 million to advertise during the 2007 NCAA national basketball championships. Both were among the top five advertisers, and the beer category was the second-leading advertiser behind automobiles. Nonetheless, expenditures on beer advertising account approximately for no more than five percent of total broadcast revenues to the NCAA.

The NCAA’s advertising policy on its face excludes "those advertisements and advertisers … that do not appear to be in the best interests of higher education and student athletes" and specifically prohibits ads for cigarettes, sports wagering, gambling, nightclubs, firearms and weapons, athletic recruitment services, and depictions of any student-athlete group in a degrading, demeaning or disrespectful manner. "Impermissible" ads also include NC-17-rated motion pictures, television programming or interactive games, and alcoholic beverages. But, ads for malt beverages, beer, and wine products that do not exceed six percent alcohol by volume are excepted, with limitations. CSPI says that that exception for beer makes no sense, because beer is the most popular and most problematic alcoholic drink among college students.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at] or Ariana Stone (astone[at]