NIU asked to relinquish alcohol sponsorship

By Bill Schwingel

The DeKalb Board of Education is asking NIU to give up about $31,000 in alcohol sponsorship because they claim that the ads promote alcohol consumption by DeKalb minors.

“Parents and educators are worried about substance abuse by our youth,” said board of education member Don Robinson. The board is “responding to what they’ve (NIU) done.”

The board of education is against any alcohol sponsorship because they feel the distribution of the sponsors’ advertisements links them to the university and promotes alcohol consumption by minors, Robinson said.

NIU receives $26,360 from the Coors Co. for various printing purposes in football, volleyball and basketball, said Mary Mihelich, assistant athletic director for promotions and marketing.

The printing involves posters, pocket schedules and counter card displays used to hold the pocket schedules. Coors also has a tent for football games and does sniping, which Mihelich described as the printed support of NIU athletics in advertisements.

The Miller Brewing Co. also contributes $5,000 to a golf invitational in the spring, she said.

Although the board can do nothing against TV and radio advertisements, the board feels it cannot ignore the wide distribution of alcohol advertisements throughout DeKalb, Robinson said.

“Eliminating this (alcohol sponsorship) won’t stop kids from drinking,” but the board cannot condone illegal drinking by minors, he said.

“Marketing the NIU students is marketing the DeKalb students,” Robinson said.

“I don’t think we endorse alcohol and I don’t think we (NIU athletics) are aggressively promoting alcohol consumption,” said NIU Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell.

The board of education feels that NIU’s acceptance of the beer companies sponsorship is contradictory to the purpose of a university.

“All we’re asking is for NIU to be sensitive to the fact that what they are doing (accepting the money from the alcohol sponsors) runs contrary” to the students learning that the use of alcohol by minors is illegal and could lead to future problems, Robinson said.

The athletic department realizes that it has a “very strong influence” with DeKalb students and supports the university programs against alcohol abuse, O’Dell said. The department is considering reviewing the use of alcohol sponsors at the end of the school year when the contracts with the sponsors are completed, he said.

The loss of the alcohol companies as sponsors “won’t hurt us (the athletic department) at all,” O’Dell said.