The relation between alcohol consumption and the celebration of various holidays is well-known. For example, New Year’s Eve is often considered an occasion for champagne and cocktails; whereas, green beer and whiskey flow freely on St. Patrick’s Day. Research has demonstrated higher rates of binge drinking and alcohol-related deaths during holiday festivities (Mäkelä, Martikainen, & Nihtilä, 2005
). In addition, studies have shown that deaths from motor vehicle accidents occur most frequently on holidays, including New Year’s and the 4th
of July (Farmer & Williams, 2005
), with speculation that alcohol is an important factor in these deaths. As a result, public education efforts have targeted holiday drinkers to inform them of the dangers of binge drinking and driving while intoxicated, and public safety officials have increased patrols and driver check-points to deter drunk driving (DeJong & Hingson, 1998
However, alcohol consumption in general, and binge drinking in particular, are not limited to annual holiday celebrations. Rather, other situations may be equally high-risk and warrant similar public health interventions. For example, several studies have documented a correlation between excessive alcohol consumption and sporting events that draw a large number of spectators. Wolfe et al. (1998)
found 41% of spectators at a major league baseball game tested positive for alcohol. In addition, universities report a significant association between high-profile collegiate sporting events and alcohol consumption among students. Indeed, the percentage of college students who self-report binge drinking correlates .28 (p
< .01) with the percentage of students who identify as “sports fans” (Nelson & Wechsler, 2002). The highest-profile collegiate sporting events, may be associated with even higher rates of drinking. For example, one study demonstrated that students whose school team was participating in the semi-final and final games of the NCAA basketball tournament reported much heavier drinking on the game days than was typical for them on those days of the week (Neal et al., 2005
Research has suggested that being a spectator of college football games may represent a significant risk factor for binge drinking, with spectators reporting higher consumption on game days than during other parties or social activities (Glassman et al., 2007
). This may be particularly problematic at schools in which the football program is highly emphasized and/or successful. Indeed, one study of rugby spectators showed that post-game alcohol consumption is associated with aggression (not celebration), but that team success may increase aggression among fans (Moore et al., 2007
). Another study demonstrated that students’ self-reported alcohol consumption on football game days paralleled their self-reported alcohol consumption on holidays (Neal & Fromme, 2007
). Despite these findings, interventions to deter excessive alcohol consumption, drunk driving, and aggression during football games or other sporting events have not been widely implemented. Though some universities have adopted policies and programs aimed at curbing student drinking in general (for reviews see Toomey & Wagenaar, 2002
; Turrisi, Mallett, Mastroleo, & Larimer, 2006
), programs do not typically focus on alcohol consumption related to collegiate sporting events. In addition, programs and policies targeting non-student sports spectators among the general public are completely lacking in most areas.
Excessive alcohol consumption represents a significant public health concern due to its social, psychological, and medical consequences (Institute for Health Policy, 1993
), as well as legal consequences including arrest, incarceration, fines, or loss of privileges (e.g., licensure). Yet, in order to promote programs and policies to decrease spectator-sport-related binge drinking and its associated consequences, more information is needed to document the problem. Previous research has been limited by almost exclusive reliance on self-reports of alcohol consumption, as well as samples that were wholly comprised of university students. The present study was conducted to extend the results of previous research by examining objective public record data to document the rates of alcohol-related arrests for both student and non-student offenders in a college town with a sucessful NCAA Division I football program. Specifically, the goal was to compare the number of alcohol-related arrests associated with college football game days to the number occurring on holidays and control days.