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Bottoms up: Fighting Illini boast their official beer

Every time you think college athletics can’t stoop any lower to pick up a couple of dollars. . . you’re wrong.

A new billboard on Damen Avenue north of Fullerton proclaims Coors “the official beer of the Fighting Illini.’’

Seriously?

The Big Ten proudly bans general beer sales at its stadiums and arenas. The Big Ten Network righteously refuses to accept beer and

alcohol advertising.

At least that was the case the last time I looked.

But now, Illinois’ flagship state university is accepting money to endorse beer?

If they were doing this to benefit higher education or lower tuition, maybe we’d hold our noses and say, “It’s another sign of the

times.’’

The Big Ten was willing to water down its product by adding Rutgers and Maryland. Why not tap into a beer that “tastes great’’ in

commercial message only?

But this deal with the devil will add to the coffers of an athletic department that already has a piece of the wealthiest

conference pie in the history of college sports. How many different helmets and high-tech uniforms do they really need?

In its defense, attendance-challenged Illinois did pay football coach Tim Beckman approximately $500,000 per victory in his

first two seasons.

In addition, the convoluted Illini-Coors accord apparently has limits. The “official beer’’ signs aren’t permitted on or near

campus. Does that mean the university is protecting current students while subjecting far-off fans and alumni to dubious advertising?

Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if the Big Ten cut out the cloak-and-dagger stuff with alcohol. High-rollers already can drink in luxury suites at games, so why deny Joe Fan a beer in the upper deck?

Full disclosure: When I was a student at Wisconsin, we used to sneak in pints of brandy to football games. (The Badgers weren’t

very good in those days. Serious patdowns would have ruined attendance.) But that was all very unofficial.

And if the Big Ten Network is going to hawk `5 Hour Energy,’ what’s so terrible about Coors, Budweiser and Miller beer?

They actually do have terrific television spots. If the beer were as good as the ads. . . but that’s a different topic.

Illinois reportedly made a six-figure deal with Coors. And if there is an “official beer of the Fighting Illini,’’ it’s not a big

leap to expect other official items in the future. The official potato chip. Candy bar. Hand sanitizer. Odor eliminator. Snow shovel. Maybe

even hangover remedy.

And if the majority of UofI students are too young to imbibe an official product. . . well, this isn’t really about them, is it?