ATLANTA — The Dr Pepper Challenge, a yearly conference-championship ritual where students sling footballs into giant cans to win tuition money, is as confounding and maddening as the rest of college football. This year, even more so.
Two students, Reagan Whitaker of Baylor and and Kayla Gibson of the University of St. Augustine, did battle during halftime of Sunday's SEC Championship in Atlanta. The stakes: $100,000 in tuition, not a bad little prize.
As Georgia and LSU players left the field at halftime, the two students positioned themselves several yards from their respective Dr Pepper cans and soon began slinging chest passes. (We're long past the point where anyone complains about players making chest passes rather than spirals. You play to win the game, and for most people, a chest pass is far more accurate from that distance.)
At the end of the initial allotted time, both Reagan and Kayla were tied. So they went to an overtime: a 15-second throw-off. But they were tied at the end of that, too! So ... another throw-off, right?
Not so! Since we can't have these students getting in the way of marching bands or warm-ups, the Powers That Be declared this contest over ... based on an unknown-until-now rule that the second tiebreaker was based on who scored more in the qualifying showdown held on Friday. Reagan was awarded the $100K prize as a result. This, naturally, went over about as well as a "Roll Tide" with the Georgia and LSU fans in attendance, and boos rained down from the stands.
As well they should! Come on, Dr Pepper! Sure, a little extra time would have Kirby Smart or Brian Kelly seething in the tunnel, but so what? Have a 10-second double overtime! Make 'em play quarters or have a dance-off or drink 23 Dr Peppers, anything but an "oh yeah, here's a secret rule that we didn't tell you" ending. Congratulations to Reagan, but #JusticeForKayla hit Twitter as soon as the results were announced.
Apparently Dr Pepper heard the outcries on social media as it was announced later in the broadcast of the game that both contestants will be awarded $100,000 in tuition money. Justice was swift this time.
Contact Jay Busbee at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.