Drinking and College Sports

College Alcohol Consumption and NCAA Tournament Participation: the Health Cost of March Madness

We examine the effect of the NCAA Tournament on the level of binge drinking through a nationally representative sample of American campuses. While a focus on athletics may augment the visibility of a university to prospective students and thereby benefit the school, it may also have a negative effect on the current student body by influencing risky behavior related to intercollegiate athletics, especially the consumption of alcohol commonly associated with game day festivities.


Using the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study (CAS), we find that participation in the NCAA Tournament is associated with a 28% increase in binge drinking by male students at participating schools. These results suggest that in addition to enjoying the benefits of greater athletic success, universities should confront the culture of binge drinking on game days in order to protect their student body.

Coauthors: Ben Cowan and Jadrian Wooten