As a member of the executive committee of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Robert Fisher, president of Belmont University, has a unique opportunity and responsibility to speak up for alcohol-free sports TV at the NCAA's executive committee's August meeting.
EthicsDaily.com asked Fisher this week in an email why the Tennessee Baptist-affiliated school had not joined 228 other universities in support of the Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV, including the commitment to "vote to adopt a policy at the NCAA level directing the organization to eliminate all alcohol advertising from NCAA television and radio broadcasts, beginning with all future broadcast contracts."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest's Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV has questioned the NCAA's policies related to beer ads on sports telecasts.
CSPI contends that "The history of NCAA's alcohol advertising policy reflects an inappropriately close financial, personnel and policy relationship with brewer Anheuser-Busch."
"That company's mission—to sell beer—conflicts directly with college and NCAA efforts to come to grips with alcohol problems in higher education," said CSPI, urging the adoption of "a voluntary ban on all alcohol advertising, including beer advertising, in NCAA telecasts."
In an earlier editorial, EthicsDaily.com noted that a NCAA press release about a survey of college students and tailgating disclosed the NCAA's reluctance to use even the word beer. The press release used terms like "tailgate," "safe tailgating," "tailgating," "pre and post-game parties," "fan behavior," "act responsibly" and "celebrating" as euphemisms for beer drinking.
EthicsDaily.com asked Fisher if he supported the campaign and would speak in favor of its objectives at the executive committee meeting.
Fisher replied that he is "a strong advocate for an alcohol-free college experience. Alcohol is prohibited on our campus and at all sponsored events."
Calling alcohol "a dangerous drug that ruins the lives of people who use it," Fisher said that he would "reserve my comments on this particular proposal until the appointed time for its discussion."
While Fisher's personal position and the university's policy are commendable, Belmont's failure to join the Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV is as regrettable as it is surprising.
Unfortunately, Belmont is not the only Baptist school belonging to the Tennessee Baptist Convention that has not joined a pro-health initiative sponsored by CSPI.
Carson-Newman College is another non-participant, albeit a member of the NCAA, according to CSPI's list of schools that have signed on.
A third Tennessee Baptist school, Union University is not a member by virtue of its affiliation with a smaller collegiate association, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Union also belongs to the National Christian College Athletic Association, an organization of many Bible schools that include Moody Bible Institute and Tennessee Temple University.
Furman University, Hardin-Simmons University, Samford University, University of Richmond and Wake Forest University are Baptist-affiliated universities that are not listed as supporters of CSPI alcohol-free TV sports campaign.
Baptist-affiliated universities that have joined this pro-health initiative include Baylor University, Campbell University, Dallas Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University, Gardner-Webb University, Liberty University, Mars Hill College, Mercer University, Meredith College, Ouachita Baptist University and Southwest Baptist University.
Universities need to see the campaign for beer-free ads on college sporting events as part of the pro-health movement, and not simply a retread the largely defunct prohibition movement.
Reforming the NCAA would be a constructive step toward healthier and safer campuses.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.