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Sunday, February 25, 2024

University presidents complain to NCAA about televised alcohol ads

In response to "embarrassingly prominent" television alcohol ads aired throughout the NCAA basketball tournament, about 100 university presidents and athletic directors signed a letter of complaint sent to the organization last week.

Though the NCAA only allows advertising for beverages with alcohol content of 6 percent or less, the April 9 letter asks that the organization eliminate alcohol ads from its sports telecasts entirely.

A study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit Washington-based advocacy group, showed that 270 seconds of beer ads aired during the April 7 NCAA basketball championship game between the universities of Kansas and Memphis.

The NCAA's standards state that alcohol ads can't exceed 120 seconds total in any telecast.

Mike Hill, UF associate athletic director for external affairs, said Foley told him he didn't know the letter existed. Attempts to reach Machen were unsuccessful, but Hill said he had likely never seen the letter either.

Although UF President Bernie Machen and Jeremy Foley, UF's athletic director, aren't on the list, UF has an agenda of its own to target alcohol ads played during Gators sports games.

Despite the absence of his name in the letter, Machen has worked to combat underage and binge drinking in Gainesville since 2005 with the creation of the city's Community Alcohol Coalition, a group composed of UF students, faculty, city officials, law enforcement officers and health experts.

UF has also made it clear that it does not condone alcohol advertising during collegiate sports games as one of nearly 300 NCAA-member colleges nationwide that support the center's Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV.

Ohio State University, Texas Tech University, the University of Louisiana and the University of North Carolina at Asheville are among the other Division I colleges that back the cause, which was started in 2005. As a result of UF's commitment to the campaign, no alcohol ads can be shown during Gators sports games broadcast on regional stations - SunSports and Fox Sports Net Florida - or Gators networks.

"The University of Florida has taken a very aggressive stance on this issue," Hill said. "That's a significant statement for an institution of this size."

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