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The Need to Address Game-Day Fan Behavior on College Campuses

Dr. Laura L. Forbes is Chair of the American College Health Association (ACHA) Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug (ATOD) Coalition, and Dr. Tavis J. Glassman is a ACHA ATOD coalition member.

The Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Coalition focuses on substance abuse prevention and treatment specific to the college student population. An issue of increasing concern for our coalition is fan behavior associated with college football games. More than a mere nuisance, the high-risk drinking and other drug use associated with game-day fan behavior is a serious public health problem and an issue that universities and surrounding communities need to address.

Scope of the Problem

  • The high-risk drinking that takes place on game day is associated with a variety of negative consequences, such as drinking and driving, injury, loss of memory (e.g., blacking out), urinating in public, and vandalism. These consequences are not limited to those actually engaged in alcohol consumption, as non-drinkers also can become victims of secondary negative consequences.
  • No research to date has looked at the problem from a national perspective. However, a number of site-specific observational studies have documented the health threats associated with the extreme fan behavior often associated with game day on campus. For example, a 2007 study published in the Journal of American College Health about alcohol-related fan behavior at a large university in the Southeast found that college students and other fans tend to drink more on game day than during other social occasions.
  • While anecdotal evidence indicates illicit drug use plays a part in game-day fan behavior, there’s a strong need for research to explore this connection and more accurately determine its nature, scope, and impact on public health.
     

Guidelines and Recommendations

  • Creating a campus coalition/task force to prepare for and manage game-day issues is a fundamental first step in engaging community and campus officials, such as those in Student Affairs, the Health Center, Counseling Center, Health Promotion Office, University Police Department, Athletics Department, Residence Life, student government, and other student organizations.
  • After conducting a needs assessment that looks at issues such as campus and/or community readiness and student substance use, the coalition can begin to plan prevention initiatives that include specific educational efforts, policy implementation, and increased enforcement.

Report in Development

  • The ACHA ATOD Coalition is working collaboratively with other organizations and stakeholders to develop a report that will offer recommendations to help colleges and universities address the excessive alcohol consumption and related consequences associated with game-day fan behavior.
  • As with many other health issues, there is no easy solution to the challenges associated with game-day fan behavior on campus. However, by opening up a dialogue, stakeholders (including students and fans) can discuss, evaluate, and implement measures to address this issue and help make game days on campus safer for everyone.

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 [1] Champion, H., Blocker, J. N., Buettner, C. K., Martin, B. A., Parries, M., McCoy, T. P., Mitra, A., Andrews, D. W., Rhodes, S. D. (2009). High-rish versus low-risk football game weekends: Differences in problem drinking and alcohol-related consequences on college campuses in the United States. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 21(2) 249-62.

[1] Glassman T, Werch CE, Jobli E, Bian H. Alcohol-Related Fan Behavior on College Football Game Day. Journal of American College Health. 2007;56(3):255-260.