COLLEGE PARK – Put down the straw and back away from the cup.
Under a new policy ordered by University of Maryland Police, vendors at Byrd Stadium are no longer allowed to give drinking straws with the soft drinks they serve.
Police say they hope the new policy — which took effect with Saturday’s football home opener — will discourage sports fans from throwing loaded cups into the crowd.
Without a straw, police say, a fan will have to remove the plastic lid to drink the beverage. Once removed, it is difficult to get the lid to stay in place, rendering the cup an ineffective projectile, police said.
“The lid will fly off and ice will spill all over you and the people around you,” said Capt. Paul Dillon, a campus police spokesman. “It’s harder to throw a full glass of Coke at somebody 50 rows down” once the lid has flown off, he said.
Dillon said the policy will apply to other sports venues on campus as well. Rowdy University of Maryland fans made headlines earlier this year for pelting Duke University fans with objects during a basketball game at Cole Field House.
Concessions officials said fans did not seem upset Saturday by the absence of straws at the 25 concession stands at Byrd Stadium.
“A lot of people asked for straws, but nobody got belligerent about it,” said Joseph Mullineaux, associate director of campus dining services.
But some of the 44,080 fans who showed up for Saturday’s victory over the University of North Carolina disagreed with the policy.
“They shouldn’t be outlawing straws,” said Harris Handwerker, a University of Maryland senior majoring in agribusiness. “It’s ridiculous. We’re college students, we’re not in kindergarten.”
He said he doubted the new policy would prevent fans from throwing things in the stadium.
“If somebody’s going to be immature to throw a cup they’re going to do it whether the lid is on or not,” he said.
Criminal justice and finance senior James Krieger agreed.
“They would just figure out something else to throw,” he said. “It could even be worse. They could decide to throw a brick.”
Under Maryland law, throwing an object at an athletic event is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to three months in prison, a $250 fine or both. Police made one arrest at Saturday’s game for throwing an object and disorderly conduct.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association bans sales of alcohol at college athletic events, but neither the NCAA nor the Atlantic Coast Conference collect data on drinking straw policies.
Calls to other ACC schools Tuesday found that straws are not dispensed at University of Virginia or Clemson University games. Vendors at UNC do not give out straws, but not for safety reasons: School officials said it is an effort to cut down on trash.
While Byrd Stadium’s concessionaires may not give customers drinking straws, fans are not forbidden from bringing their own.
“Straws are not contraband at a game like a flask of alcohol would be,” Dillon said.