BSU tailgating file 2017 outside Bronco Stadium

Boise State University football fans celebrate at tailgate parties outside Bronco Stadium in 2017 in this file photo. Idaho’s State Board of Education is moving to put university presidents in charge of alcohol issues at public college athletic events.

After years of fights over alcohol at public college athletic events — including details of where and how college football fans can celebrate before and during games — Idaho’s State Board of Education today granted preliminary approval to a move to wash its hands of those decisions. Instead, they’d be left to college and university presidents.

“This Board needs to focus on strategic direction for education policy,” board member Andrew Scoggin said. “We have very capable and competent chief executive officers at these institutions and there are very clear requirements for safety and security that they will have to meet in order to authorize these permits.”

The board, meeting today at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, directed its staff to continue to refine the policy before it is considered for final approval at its December meeting, according to board spokesman Mike Keckler.

In 2016, the board voted to ban alcohol sales to ticketed fans at Boise State University and University of Idaho football games, even though board member David Hill objected, saying it would shut down “The Huddle,” a pregame event that offered ticketed BSU fans food, alcohol and entertainment in lieu of tailgating.

The board had tentatively approved such sales a year earlier; prior to that, they were only authorized for corporate sponsors and their guests.

In 2018, the board voted 3-2 to, for the first time ever, approve tailgating including alcohol before U of I football games. In that vote, two board members, Richard Westerberg and Scoggin, dissented, saying they didn’t want to increase the availability of alcohol on campuses, particularly in combination with the “high emotions” of college football games.

Backers of the change said at the time that it made more sense than only allowing alcohol at exclusive locations within game areas where VIPs can go, and that tailgate parties are where “regular people” celebrate.

At the time, Scoggin decried how much time the board was spending on such issues, saying, “Every year we become the state board of alcohol licensing and spend an inordinate amount of time not focusing on education kids in this state,” and instead focusing on “entertainment of adults.”

Board member Linda Clark agreed, saying, “This is the gift that keeps giving. I would be interested to know how much time we have spent on this over the last three years.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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