As the Village Turns 

Booze, budgets and Buffs

click to enlarge Contrary to popular belief, a drunk Ralphie the buffalo - is not funny.
  • Contrary to popular belief, a drunk Ralphie the buffalo is not funny.

Today we will discuss the ongoing alcohol problems at our highly esteemed state institution for higher learning in Boulder, a school known as "CU," which stands for Cirrhosis University.

This week's revelation: Administrators at the school, formerly known as the University of Colorado, have spent $508,000 on booze over the past five years.

As I understand it, a sizable portion of that liquor was consumed by the school mascot, Ralphie the Buffalo, prior to this year's football game against Oklahoma. Which would explain why Ralphie had that ridiculous grin on his face and spent the entire game trying to hump the Sooners' covered wagon.

The state auditor's office said the massive booze purchases by the public university "fall outside accepted practices for public agencies in Colorado." On a more positive note, experts say spending half a million dollars on liquor does fall well within the accepted practices for brunch at actor Nick Nolte's house.

At the same time that they were spending the $508,000 on alcohol -- from 1999 to 2004 -- CU administrators were complaining that the school was under-funded by the state. The same administrators who approved the liquor purchases say the university is going broke and needs a drastic increase in tuition fees. The additional money would apparently be used to pay for typical expenses such as salaries, library improvements and, in all administration building restrooms, padded toilet seats so the dedicated university leaders don't keep getting those red welts on their foreheads when they're throwing up.

(And we wonder why the school mascot is named "Ralph.")

Liquid food supplies

The university's liquor spending frenzy was uncovered by Rocky Mountain News reporters Todd Hartman and Kevin Vaughan and was detailed in a story published last weekend.

(Our village's daily newspaper didn't have that story. Coincidentally, however, during the same five-year period in which CU spent $508,000 on booze as chronicled by the Denver newspaper, Gazelle editor Sharon Peters also spent exactly $508,000 to have her office repainted 1,400 times.)

Here are some of the actual highlights of CU's spending spree:

A 2002 purchase by the university's department of psychiatry was listed as "food supplies" but the products purchased were wine and beer. The only non-alcohol item on the receipt was the $10 delivery charge.

It's possible the department of psychiatry just made a simple, honest error on its accounting sheet. Still, having issues with their mothers, feelings of inadequacy due to small penis size and a tendency toward drinking problems and pathological lying may also have played a small role.

In two separate incidents in 2003, the university bought kegs of beer for functions in its geography department.

The first function, as I understand it, was an all-university contest in which the winner chugged 26 cups of beer and correctly named "East Dakota" as the largest state bordering Maryland and won a two-week, all-expenses-paid ski trip to Nigeria.

(Details about the second function were sketchy, but university sources said it ended shortly after midnight when two freshmen lurched up onto the roof of the geography building and dropped a Rand-McNally globe through the windshield of a car being driven by university president Betsy "99 Bottles of Beer On the Wall" Hoffman.)

The Rocky story pointed out that throughout the five-year booze-buying spree by school officials, the same officials "have repeatedly expressed dismay at CU's national ranking as a top 'party' school."

The university says such a party-school ranking is unfair, and that such a designation is a classic case of a few bad pimento-stuffed cocktail olives ruining the whole jar.

Staggering discovery

More from the report:

CU's School of Engineering hosts seven gatherings a year -- all featuring liquor purchased by the university -- "to recognize faculty and staff achievements."

Last month, for example, engineering professor Gondracke Schmidlap was honored after unveiling blueprints, drawn on a bar napkin, showing a 750-foot suspension bridge inside the Eisenhower Tunnel. (In September, engineer Schmidlap was recognized for his revolutionary work in the area of 100-percent cotton dams.)

Another interesting discovery: Of the $508,000 spend on booze, a staggering (ha!) $336,000 of it was spent at the Liquor Mart in Boulder, which just happened to be co-owned by longtime CU athletic director Dick Tharp.

This issue involving CU and its athletic director's liquor store raises two very important points. First, I believe a public institution should refrain from engaging in business practices that seem to hold a conflict of interest.

Second, and maybe even more important, I'm pretty sure if you try to say "Dick Sharp" when you're drunk it comes out sounding like "Dick Tharp" and everyone at the party has a good laugh.

The exception would be Ralphie the buffalo.

Because there's nothing funny about having too much to drink and getting your thing stuck in the wooden spokes of a covered wagon on national television.

-- richt@csindy.com

-- Listen to Rich Tosches each Thursday on "Coffey and Alisha In the Morning" on KVUU, 99.9-FM.


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