Based on what I know about the NCAA's nonsensical system of determining (guessing) a national football champion, nothing that comes out of NCAA headquarters should surprise me.

But this did.

When more than 400 college presidents, athletic directors and coaches petitioned the NCAA to end all alcohol advertising (read: beer) during TV game broadcasts, it seemed like a no-brainer. Is there anyone out there who thinks it's a good idea to encourage college kids to drink more beer? But the NCAA rejected the proposal, which was bad enough, but then Michael Adams, chairman of the NCAA's executive committee, offered this doozy of an explanation:

"We want to be very conservative with this," he said. "Though we don't think this type of advertising is appropriate (for college sports), we have tried this once before in this country and it didn't work very well."

I have no idea what that means (and, by the way, so much for the old coach try). So I called Randy Hollis, an editor on the Deseret News sports desk, and asked if he could explain it, and after some hesitation, he said, "He couldn't mean Prohibition, could he?"

Nah. Next I called Dr. Chris Hill, the University of Utah athletic director and a certified smart guy. He had no clue. After he stammered around for a moment, I asked him if he thought Adams was referring to Prohibition. "That's what I was going to say, but I was embarrassed to say it," he said.

Next I called fellow columnist Lee Benson, another smart (aleck) guy, to explain the quote, and after a moment of silence, he said, "I guess he means Prohibition."

I tried to call the NCAA for an explanation, but couldn't get past the prerecorded voice.

If you're wondering what Prohibition has to do with banning beer advertisements or, for that matter, the price of tea in Beijing, I have no idea. Ever wonder how these people can't create a football playoff? Maybe Wayne and Garth had the best explanation for the NCAA: "We fear change."

In April, more than 100 university presidents wrote to NCAA president Myles Brand to say they believed the beer ads that appeared during the NCAA basketball tournament were "embarrassingly prominent."

Then nearly the same number of football and basketball coaches wrote letters urging the executive committee to gradually phase out beer advertising over the next three years. Two other letters, which were signed by more than 200 athletic directors, and 39 university presidents, took the same position.

Pretty cool, huh? — all these athletic directors, coaches and presidents taking time to do the right thing, even though it wouldn't help them win more games or collect more money. Among those who made the appeal were the presidents and athletic directors at BYU, Utah, Utah State and Southern Utah, along with Utah president Michael Young and Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham.

It seemed like a reasonable and noble request. What idiot decided beer and college athletics were a good mix?

But somehow the NCAA rejected the ban on beer ads. They wimped out. They voted last week to continue to allow beer advertising on college sports telecasts — further proof that networks and money are running college athletics.

Their hypocrisy knows no limits. On one hand, they're telling kids not to binge drink and not to drink if they're underage, and with the other hand they're taking money from beer companies. Meanwhile, they won't let kids accept a few dollars from a coach for transportation or breakfast.

In their letter to the NCAA, the aforementioned college officials wrote, "Alcohol and college sports are a bad mix. Beer promotion during college sports telecasts undermines the best interests of higher education and compromises the efforts of colleges and others to combat sometimes epidemic levels of alcohol problems on many campuses today."

According to a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, 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.

Somehow, NCAA types sleep better at night because they demand that their advertisers put "drink responsibly" in the beer commercials. How much more difficult would it be for the NCAA to ban beer ads? TV already bans ads for liquor, cigarettes, and guns, among other things; the NCAA forces arenas to cover beer ads in stadiums and arenas during championship events, and does not allow the sale of alcohol during games. It prohibits liquor ads during TV broadcasts of college games, but makes an exception for beer — the alcohol of choice for college kids — albeit limiting ads for beer to 60 seconds per hour of television coverage.

Young, the University of Utah president, believes the NCAA wouldn't miss the lost revenues from beer ads, which account for about five percent of total broadcast revenues for the NCAA. They would be quickly replaced.

But the NCAA — surprise! — sees no need for change.

"I think we've taken a very sensible, very rationale, very conservative approach, and we've asked that any company that advertises (alcohol) during our games continue to include the message 'drink responsibly' on its ads," Adams said.

Right, that will be a big help in the student drinking problem — two words.


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