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Will beer sales help with binge drinking?

The University of Mississippi is the latest school to announce it will sell beer at athletic events. USM made the decision to do the same last week. So far, Mississippi State is staying dry.

Ole Miss announced Friday that it would begin selling beer at football games beginning Oct. 19. The university also says it will sell beer at men’s and women’s basketball games and baseball games, The Associated Press reported.

University officials cite a decrease in pregame binge drinking and/or sneaking a pint into games as reasons behind the decision to sell beer. But let’s be honest: It’s about attendance and money.

As college tuition has skyrocketed, so has the need for more dollars to support athletic programs. Some programs — think outside the SEC — lose money each year. Alcohol sales at games will surely help with that problem.

Maybe those folks making the argument that beer sales at games is a good thing are correct. Maybe selling inside the stadium will reduce pregame binge drinking. And maybe there will be fewer coat pocket flasks full of Jack Daniels. But the logic of that argument is a bit misguided, I think.

I remember my college days, and most of the folks getting hammered before the game were under the age of 21. Same goes for the people sneaking in the hard stuff. Most freshmen, sophomores and juniors are under 21.

Those students won’t be able to purchase alcohol at football games legally, and so most of them are still going to get loaded before entering the stadium.

I’m not sure allowing beer sales at games has much impact on the very demographic that tends to get wasted before kickoff.

Now, I realize most attendees at football games are not students. There are plenty of adult alumni and football fans filling the bleachers and box seats. And I guess that demographic is just as likely as students to drink while tailgating, but that age group tends to be responsible enough to find a designated driver.

I know that’s a generalization but, on the whole, I think 40-year-olds are more responsible than 18-year-olds when it comes to alcohol.

For years, universities have fought the pervasive problem of alcohol abuse on campuses. Selling alcohol at university events seems to run counter to that fight.

According to government stats, 58 percent of full-time college students ages 18-22 drank alcohol in the past month compared with 48.2 percent of non-college students of the same age. The increase is seen in binge drinking as well — 37.9 percent of college students ages 18-22 reported binge drinking compared with 32.6 percent of non-college students.

Researchers estimate that each year:

• 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes.

• 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.

• 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. (data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health),

Needless to say, alcohol is a problem on college campuses. Selling beer at games does not seem like the best way to solve that problem.

Email publisher Luke Horton at luke.horton@dailyleader.com.