Rascal Flatts kicks Coors in order to appear at UF

Published: Friday, January 21, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 21, 2005 at 12:28 a.m.
One of America's hottest country bands, Rascal Flatts, is giving up beer for one night.
The three-man band, awarded the Country Music Association's 2003 Vocal Group of the Year, is scheduled to play at the O'Connell Center at the University of Florida next month.
But UF President Bernie Machen, who Wednesday took a public stand to curb alcohol abuse among students, said the group's sponsor, Coors Light, had to go if Rascal Flatts wanted to perform on campus. Coors Light appears on all of the concert tour's advertising.
Event promoter Clear Channel agreed late Thursday to pull the beer from all advertising before and during the Feb. 18 concert, said Ed Poppell, the university's vice president of administration-finance.
"(Curbing alcohol abuse) is very important to us, so much so that we would have canceled the show," Poppell said. "But they are going to great extremes to accommodate us."
Coors Light has to be removed from all print, radio and television advertisements, all tickets and the stage curtain logo. No banners with Coors Light will be allowed to be hung outside the O'Connell Center, and no stage props with alcohol themes will be permitted.
In exchange for what could be a costly undertaking, UF is waiving the $12, 500 rental fee, Poppell said.
The proceeds from all concession sales will go to the university. All costs associated with hiring security, stage hands or other needed help will be borne by Clear Channel. It's the same promoter that brought Cher and Elton John to the O'Connell Center.
"We would get all of our expenses back," Poppell said.
Poppell said he noticed the beer sponsorship on the ads in the last couple of days and brought the issue to Machen, who was preparing to host a group of government leaders and educators to discuss how the community as a whole could launch an effort against what he called a serious health and safety issue - alcohol abuse.
The two discussed what measures the university could take to help stem the amount of alcohol consumed by students - oftentimes by those under the legal drinking age.
UF surveys indicate students younger than 21 are drinking and more than half of all students are downing more than five drinks in one sitting.
Poppell said he told the president: "This is the kind of thing we need to get serious about."
Machen concurred. He informed the faculty senate during its meeting at the Reitz Union on Thursday that he was prepared to make tough choices in order to make the right statements about alcohol usage.
"It's not clear we will be having that concert," Machen said at the time, which preceded an arrangement with Clear Channel.
An ad for the show appeared in Thursday's Scene section of The Sun. The name of the beer appears above the name of the band, although in smaller letters. Similar ads have been pulled.
In the future, Poppell said, no group or show will be allowed at the O'Connell Center with alcohol or tobacco sponsors.
"It'll be a condition up front," he said.
Tickets for the concert go on sale 10 a.m. Saturday.
Janine Young Sikes can be reached at (352) 337-0327 or sikesj@gvillesun.com.

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