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NU athletic director objects "Fan Cans' in Neb.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is one of about two dozen college communities that have objected to a nationwide beer promotion that dressed cans of Bud Light in college colors.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is one of about two dozen college communities that have objected to a nationwide beer promotion that dressed cans of Bud Light in college colors.

Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne sent a letter to local Anheuser-Busch InBev distributors earlier this month asking them not to participate in the company's "Fan Cans" promotion.

Osborne said in a statement issued Wednesday that the university's athletic department backed the position of the NCAA Board of Directors, which looked unfavorably on the promotion.

"If cans of beer incorporating University of Nebraska colors are marketed, we hope that people will realize that this is being done independent of athletic department approval," Osborne said. "We have taken a strong position against alcohol in Memorial Stadium and encourage our student-athletes to abstain from alcohol use."

Osborne contacted the distributors after learning of Anheuser-Busch's "Fan Cans" promotion, said Michael Stephens, the university's assistant athletic director for marketing, licensing and concessions. The promotion was launched to coincide with the start of football season. School colors appear on the beer cans, but college logos, names or other identifiers do not.

Osborne said the majority of the red-and-white cans were turned away by Nebraska distributors, but Stephens acknowledged that "some did get delivered."

"Those red cans that have been delivered are being sold with the understanding that they are not to be marketed in any way with football or Nebraska-related point of sale," Stephens said.

Stephens said he doesn't know where the red-and-white cans were delivered or which stores are selling them.

"We were not at all pleased with the use of the University of Nebraska colors, and we are under the understanding that it will not happen again."

No legal action by the university is planned against Anheuser-Busch over the cans, Stephens said, because the beer maker promised not to hold such a promotion again.

Colleges across the country have protested the promotion, complaining that it promotes underage drinking and infringes on trademarks. Anheuser-Busch has said some 25 colleges represented by Collegiate Licensing Co. sent the brewer formal letters asking it to stop the program at their campuses.

The St. Louis-brewer has declined to name specific schools but has said it agreed to drop the "Fan Cans" promotions from communities around the country where colleges have complained about the effort.

Anheuser-Busch said Wednesday that it did not receive a letter from the University of Nebraska, but that it did learn of the university's objection through some of its distributors in the state. The company said it is working with all parties to reach a resolution but could not say how many of the red-and-white cans might be for sale in the state.

Calls to nine distributors in the state on Wednesday turned up only one that confirmed it had received the red-and-white cans.

Tom Condon, the general manager of Sandhills Distributing in North Platte, Neb., said his distributorship has received the promotional cans but has not sent any out.

Condon believes Anheuser-Busch is looking for other markets where the cans can be sold.

"But if AB comes back to us and says to sell it, we probably will," Condon said.

Osborne, the fabled former Nebraska football coach, has long denounced underaged drinking on college campuses. In 2003, he helped promote a nationwide campaign targeting alcohol advertising in college sports.