The National Collegiate Athletic Association must decide whether it's going to promote the positive value of sports to young Americans or become just another sports entertainment conglomerate.
The case at hand: Will the NCAA set an example, walk away from beer advertising on NCAA sports telecasts, and risk alienating advertisers?
The NCAA's board of directors is expected to consider the issue of beer ads at its meeting this week. Ads for other alcoholic beverages already are prohibited from NCAA broadcasts.
The argument for a beer ban seems overwhelming. Colleges are already battling drunkenness on campuses. Every year, drinking by college students results in about 1,400 deaths, 500,000 injuries, 600,000 assaults, and 70,000 sexual assaults or date rapes, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Riots by drunken students after sports events are almost routine.
College students and impressionable children shouldn't be conditioned to associate beer drinking with college football or basketball. Yet the NCAA's "March Madness" basketball tournament this spring carried so many beer ads that one commentator suggested it should be renamed "Malt Madness" and the sport renamed "Brewball."
Beer companies argue that a large majority of NCAA viewers are adults and that ads target them, not kids. But prominent former coaches like North Carolina's Dean Smith and U Rep. Tom Osborne (R) of Nebraska, who coached at Nebraska, recognize that large numbers of young people also are watching and are speaking out against beer ads. More than 200 NCAA schools have done so too.
When will the NCAA realize the damaging impact on its public image of putting beer in front of kids?