I drank all my benefits
Over the course of my final two years at Ball State, I drank $14,000 in illegal free beer at Papa Lou’s Chug, a campus tavern frequented by scholarship athletes.
Brian Outlaw, my former teammate and roommate, introduced me to free beer at the Chug. His girlfriend worked as a server at the watering hole and later Brian landed a job as a bouncer, as did I.
My dear friend and sportswriting peer Lonnie White, a former USC receiver/kick returner, inspired me to confess my illicit NCAA violations. On Wednesday, Lonnie made national news by revealing he accepted $14,000 in illegal cash and gifts while playing for the Trojans in the early 1980s. To pay his rent and other bills, Lonnie sold his USC season tickets to boosters.
In the late 1980s, you couldn’t give Ball State season tickets away. Seriously, the players wouldn’t even take them.
We drank our illegal benefits.
The drinking helped us cope with coach Paul Schudel’s 1960s-inspired offensive playbook and comprehend defensive coordinator Rick Minter’s new-millennium, complex, innovative schemes.
Unlike Lonnie, I am not ashamed of — nor do I feel any remorse about — my illegal activity. Mostly I regret the Chug didn’t carry Hennessey. I would’ve been a much better football player had I downed $14,000 in Hendo.
Try playing football while guzzling $14k in draft beer a quarter at a time.
That’s right. The Chug had two popular nights — Mondays and Thursdays. If memory serves me, Mondays were “Quarter Beers” and Thursdays were “Dollar Pitchers.”
Do the math. And the coaches wondered why it didn’t matter how many extra-conditioning “help sessions” they put me through, my gut never disappeared.
Budweiser > Exercise.
The free drinking wasn’t our only NCAA violation. As bouncers — Brian, another teammate, Andy Engeman, and I — we gave away thousands of dollars in free cover charges to our teammates, the basketball team and all of the hot girls.
There was a group of Catholic girls from nearby Taylor University who received free drinking privileges whenever they’d visit because of their willingness to “assist” the bouncing staff.
Brian taught me how to manipulate/rig the wet T-shirt contest that was held on Wednesdays. The winner received $100. You’d meet a girl on Monday at “Quarter Beers,” tell her to come back on Wednesdays and you’d guarantee her $100 bucks. Hey, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, $100 was a lot of money for a poor college kid.
As the bouncer, you controlled the squirt-water bottles and the music that was played during the wet T-shirt contest. The winner was decided based on crowd noise. The music often dictated how hyped the crowd would get and whether the girl would get crazy enough to respond to the SKIN TO WIN! chants.
Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance,” Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison” and EU’s “Da Butt” were my go-to songs to swing the crowd and entice the contestant.
I’m sure all of this was against NCAA rules. Hell, just having a job was a violation.
Again, I have no real regrets.
Well, I did graduate Ball State with a 2.2 GPA and was totally unqualified for a full-time job in my chosen profession. My first gig out of college was part time for $5 an hour at the Bloomington Herald-Times. (Thank you, Bob Zaltsberg, Bob Hammel and Andy Graham for overlooking my collegiate immaturity and focusing on my work ethic.)
And there was the night I got liquored up at the Chug and beat up a kid half my size because he wouldn’t quit dancing with a girl from one of my journalism classes who had promised to go home with me when I got off work. She was so offended by my behavior that she went home with Greg Garnica, our star linebacker.
Oh, and I still have nightmares about Joel Smeenge, a defensive end from Western Michigan, repeatedly running around me for sacks and shutting down our passing game in the most important football game I ever played. Maybe, if I had drank less and exercised more, I would’ve been able to occasionally slow him.
As for the NCAA rule book?
Child, please. Any legal-age scholarship athlete reading this, just know the drinks are always on me.
Editor’s note: Jason slightly exaggerated the amount of free beer he drank at The Chug in this satirical tale. By most accounts, it was probably less than $12,000 when you factor in spillage and whatnot.