Slam dunks, hot dogs, tug-of-war — and some football — on tap for Ole Miss’ spring game

Published 5:56 pm Thursday, April 11, 2024

Just like it does every April, Ole Miss’ football program will wind down its spring practice period by playing the Grove Bowl Saturday in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

At some point during the three-hour scrimmage, the Rebels might even play something resembling football.

The spring game has been rebranded as the “Grove Bowl Games” and will be a goofy team Olympics rather than a traditional scrimmage. Players will compete in a dunk contest, hot dog eating contest, tug-of-war and an obstacle course in between four quarters of 7-on-7 football.

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Head coach Lake Kiffin said the format was modeled after the current version of the NFL’s Pro Bowl.

“I would describe it as a Pro Bowl-plus,” Kiffin said. “Meaning, the 7-on-7 would look like what you watched the Pro Bowl, the flag football part. Players have drafted teams, coaches, players and everything for that. There will be some fan involvement in different things. There’ll be an obstacle course, dunk competition and a hot dog eating competition and Joey Chestnut will be here for that. Should be exciting for people to come see.”

Chestnut, one of the world’s top competitive eaters, will oversee the hot dog eating contest scheduled that is scheduled for halftime.

The festivities will begin at 3 p.m. with the dunk contest. The tug-of-war competition will be held between the first and second quarter, and the obstacle course relay race between the third and fourth.

Scoring for the Grove Bowl Games will give the Red and Blue teams points for both 7-on-7 action as well as for each non-football event.

Dunkers earning a spot in the finals get seven points for their team, and the winner earns an additional seven. Tug-of-war will be split into five rounds, with the winning team of each round getting five points.

The individual winner of the hot dog eating contest will add 12 points to his team’s total, while second place earns seven points and third place three. Finally, the Grove Bowl Gauntlet will be split into three rounds, with each round’s winner earning five points.

Kiffin said the revamped spring game flowed from the idea that the traditional model had outlived its usefulness as an evaluation tool. He said coaches rarely show any new wrinkles for the upcoming season, so the idea was to turn the spring finale into a fun reward for players and fans alike.

In addition to the laid-back Grove Bowl games, fans will have the opportunity to get player autographs inside the Manning Center afterward. Admission and parking are free. Students will be allowed to bring coolers into the stadium and tailgate in the north end zone when gates open at 2 p.m.

The Grove Bowl is also part of a big sports weekend in Oxford. Ole Miss hosts Mississippi State in an SEC baseball series — game two is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and game three is Sunday at 1:30 p.m..

The softball team is also at home against Western Kentucky this weekend, and the women’s tennis team hosts SEC foes Missouri on Friday and Arkansas on Sunday.

“If you think outside of the box and the traditional way of doing things, and I think it’s well-known that we do, I think over time the spring game isn’t really of much value. If you watch people, very rarely do they run more than a few types of plays and schemes,” Kiffin said. “I don’t know that the traditional spring game really gives you very much from an evaluation standpoint. I think it was done that way just to be done that way. The NFL doesn’t do it. So we’ll see what this is like.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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