Momentum is building for a movement to end alcohol advertising on broadcasts of college sports.

Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb., former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith and the Center for Science in the Public Interest are spearheading the “Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV.”

Osborne, former Nebraska Cornhuskers football coach, has proposed a resolution in the House of Representatives that would encourage the NCAA and members schools to stop alcohol advertising on radio and TV broadcasting of their sporting events.

“You’re sending a mixed message to students by taking this money,” Osborne said, quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education. “You’re saying that alcohol is all right while trying to fight it as a problem on campuses.”

Also supporting the effort are legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, Penn State’s Joe Paterno, one of the winningest college football coaches of all time, and Grant Teaff, former football coach at Baylor University and executive director of the American Football Coaches Association.

A total of 224 schools had signed “The College Commitment,” which was launched last November, as of Oct. 8. Among them are Baptist-affiliated schools including Baylor, Campbell, Gardner-Webb and Mercer universities, all Division 1 Schools.

The commitment pledges the schools to establish institution-wide policies prohibiting alcohol advertising on locally produced sports programming, beginning with all future broadcast contracts. Signing schools also pledge to vote against alcohol advertising at conference, NCAA and Bowl Championship levels.

Alcohol producers spent more than $991 million to advertise alcohol on television in 2002 and more than $596 million of that to promote alcohol in conjunction with televised sports events, according to the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth.

Alcohol is a major drug problem for youth. Underage drinkers consume between 10 percent and 20 percent of the alcohol in the United States, according to the American Medical Association.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says three college students in 10 met criteria for alcohol abuse and 1,400 college students die each year from alcohol-related injuries, including automobile accidents.

Yet it is nearly impossible to watch or listen to a college sporting event without being bombarded by alcohol advertisements, which studies say are more likely to be viewed by youth than adults.

“Colleges need to divorce themselves from alcohol industry advertising,” Catherine Bath, who in 1999 lost her son who died after a binge-drinking episode at Duke University, said in a news release. “Nothing will change until the leaders of our great universities take a firm stand to send such a blatantly mixed message to their own students.”

The beer industry claims that the majority of college students and persons who watch or attend college sports are of drinking age and deny that beer advertising promotes underage drinking.

A moderate Baptist ethicist voiced support for the effort.

“As an act of nonpartisan citizenship, Baptists should call their congressional representatives, asking them to co-sponsor Congressman Osborne’s resolution (H. Res. 575), which urges the NCAA to voluntarily eliminate alcohol ads on TV and radio at college sporting events,” said Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics. “I also hope that Baptists will communicate with their area college and university presidents, asking for their schools support for this effort.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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