Can college football players drink alcohol?

You are a college football player, and someone has offered you a beer, but is that legal? Can college football players drink alcohol?

Can college football players drink alcohol?

College begins when most students are 18, and since the legal limit to consume alcohol is 21, it would be illegal to drink alcohol before your junior year. The NCAA does not ban alcohol but does strongly discourage it. Many colleges have their own rules regarding alcohol and drug abuse by athletes.  

Generally, alcohol and athletics do not mix. The effects of alcoholic beverages on the human body have been well-documented, but unfortunately, that doesn’t stop the temptation of alcohol on college campuses.

While student-athletes constantly wrestle with the pressures of consuming alcohol, many athletic departments are forced to monitor the condition of their players more than ever. As much as a university might try to inform players of the risk of drinking, it is clear that a lot more needs to be done to protect the sport of college football and sometimes to keep student-athletes from harming themselves. 

What is the Official Policy of Alcohol Use And The NCAA?

The NCAA has strict guidelines concerning the use of controlled substances, like narcotics, Hormones, stimulants, and other supplements by college athletes. While the National Collegiate Athletic Association does not ban alcohol for members of college football programs (assuming they are of legal drinking age), they strongly discourage its use. Alcohol affects athletic performance, and since football is a competition designed to test the player’s abilities, alcohol inhibits players from performing at their best. 

Since the legal age is 21 years of age for alcohol consumption, no under-aged athlete is allowed to consume any alcoholic beverage. For all other student-athletes, most college football programs will not allow student-athletes to have alcohol 48 hours before a contest and 24 hours before practice. Some require team members and staff to sign agreements to be alcohol and drug-free during the season or the entire year.  

The NCAA prohibits many drug classes, dietary supplements, and even some vitamins. Students who participate in college sports competitions would be wise to avoid taking any kind of supplement, stimulant, or smoking cannabis due to the effects these substances can have on health and performance. (Not to mention the harm that can occur by operating a motor vehicle under the influence). The NCAA and the university will perform drug tests to ensure policy compliance. 

What Are The Consequences of Drinking Alcohol?

There are many adverse effects of excessive alcohol consumption. Athletes should be aware of the impact that even consuming a couple of drinks can have on their bodies and how detrimental it can be during game time. 

Alcohol Reduces Your Performance Levels

There is a reason that the NCAA bans alcohol use. Drinking an alcoholic beverage slows reaction time, dulls the senses, and can lead to a lack of balance, coordination, and concentration.

Alcohol limits the ability of athletes to do the kind of physical activity often required by high-quality football programs, where every position player matters.

If you drink and play, and someone gets hurt because you missed a block, or didn’t tackle correctly, then you could not just hurt yourself, but ruin the athletic career or, worse, a teammate’s health.  

Alcohol Can Affect Scholarships, Team Membership, Or School Attendance

Most universities have policies that strictly prohibit the use of alcoholic beverages by athletes. Many even require athletes to sign agreements indicating their promise to be free from alcohol or drugs during their college career.

While the penalties for violating substance abuse policies vary depending on the educational institution, punishment can range from the suspension of game time, loss of scholarship money, and even expulsion from the team or the school. If you drink alcohol, be prepared to face more than just an angry coach. 

Alcohol Can Bring Life-Changing Moments

Drinking alcohol and driving a motor vehicle result in many college-aged deaths across our country every year. The most recent statistics reveal that 5,623 college-aged victims of car accidents died in 2021 (about 15% of all car deaths), and another 567,000 sustained injuries.

Given the high numbers of college kids dying every year on the nation’s paved roads, you would think that coaches and administrations would find solutions to the issue of alcohol consumption on college campuses today. 

How Do Colleges Test for Alcohol Use Among Athletes?

NCAA drug screenings do not test for every kind of drug. Even though alcohol is not a drug the NCAA tests for, many universities do. Athletes should be prepared for surprise inspections and random drug testing throughout practices and the regular season. 

Alcohol detection tests can detect the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream for up to 6 hours, but a urine test can signal a positive for 12 – 24 hours (even up to 72 hours for more advanced tests). Alcohol is absorbed through the stomach and small intestine, eventually making its way to the liver.

While the body size of the person consuming alcohol and the amount of food consumed make a difference, the risk is still present for athletes for some time after consuming an alcoholic beverage. 

Why is Alcohol A Problem With College Athletics?

There are many reasons why alcohol continues to be consumed by athletes in college programs across the country. 

The Culture Of College 

College and university police forces cannot be everywhere to monitor if students are engaging in reckless behavior. The truth is teens engage in independent actions all the time. While coaches and counselors try to steer students in the right direction, the truth is heavy drinking is still a significant problem for college athletes. 

Part of the reason is that the culture of college campuses promotes alcohol abuse by students and athletes. The fact that tailgaters surround college stadiums with beer kegs flowing and allow almost anyone (of age or not) to drink is only one example. Most college stadiums now serve beer as a part of their concessions, and while purveyors try to monitor who is buying what, it isn’t always easy to keep alcohol from a determined minor. 

College-age teens find themselves in a land with freedoms they have never experienced. Free from the parental controls that many have been under, they find themselves responsible for their actions. And despite how disciplined you might think good students or athletes might be, the tsunami of beer, wine, and other liquors flowing into dorms, residence halls, fraternities, sororities, and other campus parties, makes sobriety hard to continue. 

Unfortunately, college administrators, teachers, and police forces waste valuable resources dealing with alcohol-related problems. From traffic accidents to brawls to date rape, the effects of binge drinking lead to a lot of money spent that could be used to improve the educational opportunities of the college-athlete. 

The Greed of Institutions

Most universities in the collegiate conferences sell alcoholic beverages at their stadiums. While they argue that students are already drinking before they arrive to watch the football contest, the real issue is money.

There are big bucks to be made through the sale of alcoholic beverages. The truth is that the greed of colleges and universities to line their pockets has made them overlook any negative consequences. 

Lack of Preparation Early

Many students have experimented with alcohol before they reach college age. According to the American Addiction Centers’ recent survey, 2/3rd of 12 graders have consumed alcohol. Over 90% of all alcohol abuse is binge drinking, and alcohol is the drug of choice for high school students and athletes alike. 

While schools attempt to educate their pupils on the dangers of alcohol abuse through health classes, pep rallies, posters, and other means, no one can deny that much more needs to be done.

Penalties for binge drinking may need to be stiffer and administered more quickly. As our society has developed a no-tolerance policy for harder drugs like opioids and fentanyl, should alcohol receive the same condemnation?

Key Takeaways

  • Alcohol is not banned as a substance by the NCAA, but many universities have drug/alcohol policies.
  • Alcohol abuse is the number one drug problem on college campuses today.
  • More information and monitoring programs are needed to keep college athletes from abusing alcohol.