The Grove at Ole Miss is the tailgater's dream. It's Alabama's quad and the cajun-themed hoorah at LSU pureed into one. The women in their sun-dresses, the men in the frattiest of attire, and yes, enough alcohol to make hundreds -- not just tens -- pass out. And finally, finally this beautiful blend comes full circle as ESPN's College Gameday will make it's stop in the southernmost state of Mississippi this weekend as the No. 11 Rebels take on the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been to the land of Milk and Honey Boo Boo and let me assure you, all the Taiwanese tales of grandeur that you've heard regarding "The Grove" being the greatest tailgating experience on Earth are not only true, but probably grossly understated." -Burnt Orange Nation, 2012
Bowling Green, Florida A&M, and even Vanderbilt have held host to College Gameday. So how, how has Ole Miss avoided this limelight for over twenty years? That's a damn good question, and I guess the answer has to start with the football, if nothing else.
Ole Miss's football venture came to balance in 1947 under John Vaught. Vaught, an All-American for TCU and a coach at UNC built the Ole Miss program and in a mere 12 years won back to back national championships and another two years later. Since then, Ole Miss has appeared in zero SEC Championships and therein lies the problem.
"In Oxford, they tailgate in The Grove, a lovely spot in the middle of the campus. By nine o’clock on Friday night, they have staked out their spots, and by noon for a six o’clock start the tents cover the entire green space. There are tents with satellite television, so Ole Miss fans can watch Mississippi State get the hell beaten out of it by Arkansas, which is as close as the Ole Miss folks will get to a win today." -Charles P. Pierce, Grantland.com, 2011
The school has history, great history I might add, but the recent success has hindered the overall brand and Hugh Freeze has re-ignited that. Freeze has energized this program, this school with players that the school hasn't seen in years such as Laquon Treadwell, Robert Nkemdiche, and Laremy Tunsil (all No. 1 players at their position coming out of high school). And Freeze has studied the history, even imposing the retro, powder blue helmets last week against Memphis.
"Chucky (Mullins) would have been proud of the helmets and particularly, how the defense played," said Freeze. He would have loved that. We’ll continue to honor his character traits: his selflessness and his attitude about life and against adversity."
So what should you expect come Saturday at The Grove? Well, just like they say in Oxford, "We might not win every game, but we never lose a party." So expect that, expect the booze, expect the women, but don't expect the win.