CHOICES grant winners to target fan behavior
Missouri and Minnesota are using an NCAA grant designed to educate students about alcohol abuse to also focus on fan behavior.
The two schools are among 16 recipients of NCAA CHOICES grants for 2009-12 that help institutions and conferences integrate athletics into campus-wide efforts to reduce alcohol abuse. The three-year grant requires athletics departments to partner with other campus entities to provide an effective alcohol-education campaign.
Missouri and Minnesota are launching alcohol-education initiatives that also include components designed to affect fan behavior at football games and other athletics contests.
The broader focus on fans is fitting. Extensive research conducted two years ago by the NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct identified fan behavior as the most pressing issue. Since then, that committee has launched a national campaign to address the concern.
Both Missouri and Minnesota plan to use the NCAA funds to enhance and expand current programs. The kickoff of the Tigers’ 2009-10 football season will also signal the launch of Missouri’s “We are Mizzou…We Take Pride in Our Choices” campaign. The initiative, which also will extend through the basketball and baseball seasons, is a collaborative effort among the athletics department, the school’s Wellness Research Center and the Fan Behavior and Student Fan Behavior Task Force.
The school is planning a comprehensive social-norms marketing campaign aimed at addressing the environment in which fans drink and emphasizing the responsible and legal use of alcohol.
Kim Dude, director of the Wellness Resource Center at Missouri, said the new campaign is a “souped-up” version of an initiative the school began last year designed to change the perceptions of the norms related to tailgating. The outreach was successful but limited in scope due to funding. The NCAA CHOICES grant will allow Missouri to expand the program.
Dude said years of survey data from students and ticket holders about a range of wellness issues and other topics such as tailgating and littering will form the basis of the campaign’s key messages. Those messages will be delivered through sandwich boards, posters, banners, in-game announcements, T-shirts, game programs and mass e-mails.
Beyond football season, the university will turn its attention to working with local sports bars to encourage responsible and safe use of alcohol.
“If I see a sign that says 80 percent of Mizzou fans don’t like it when people are rude to the opposition and I’m thinking of saying something rude, I’m probably not as likely to do it,” Dude said. “People basically want to do what is the socially acceptable thing to do. When you show them what people are thinking about that kind of stuff, hopefully it will help improve that behavior.”
The goal, Dude said, is to change the norms around drinking and tailgating.
“I’m imagining that other campuses have a similar dilemma, and that is that alcohol is such an ingrained tradition for football games and there are a lot of politics involved in it,” she said. “I know full well I’m probably not going to change very many policies when it comes to alcohol. But, knowing that, what else can I change? What we hope to do is change the norm.”
Minnesota is using its funds to help establish a standard of fan behavior. Next month, when the Golden Gophers take the field at their new, 50,000-seat TCF Bank Stadium, it will mark the first year football has been played on the Minneapolis-based campus since 1981 (the school had been using the Metrodome most recently).
Amelious Whyte, chief of staff in the office of student affairs at Minnesota, said the university viewed the grant as a chance to create the culture it wants not just around football but also around all the school’s athletics events. With that in mind, representatives from across the campus, such as athletics, Greek life, housing, the president’s office and student health services, designed the “Golden Gophers Make Golden Choices” campaign that will be unveiled this fall.
In addition to increasing the number of student-athletes and members of Greek organizations involved in the current peer-education program, the campaign is aimed at delivering messages about responsible behaviors and expectations and developing students who can reinforce them.
Whyte said the school was already formulating a sportsmanship initiative to help connect the effort to specific behaviors and concerns. A large part of the grant will support a student group dedicated to enhancing school spirit and promoting good sportsmanship. Though the group will debut during football season, the hope is that it will expand to other sports.
The school has also developed a fan code of conduct and is in the process of creating a spirit code. In addition, all 5,500 incoming freshman were invited into the stadium before the beginning of the school year to learn about relevant stadium and university policies and expectations, school songs and spirit-related traditions.
Whyte said the university wants to create an environment where fans and spectators can come to a Minnesota athletics event and simply enjoy the game.
“There’s so much enthusiasm about football returning to campus, and we don’t want that to be diminished by the negative behavior of a small group of people,” he said. “One of the hallmarks of this grant is that there truly is a partnership of representatives from all our major departments. A lot of different people are committed to making this work, and that is what is going to lead us to be successful.”
For more information about the NCAA CHOICES grant program or other NCAA drug-education resources, click here.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association