(This article originally featured in RebelNationMagazine – Pick up a copy at your local magazine rack!)
The “Battle for the Golden Egg” has always been a hotly contested battle between two bitter rivals. Even if the game rarely has wide ranging implications, in the state of Mississippi it is a cherished tradition.
The game has only decided a division or conference champion a handful of times in it 100 plus years in existence. Most years, the egg-shaped trophy is the only reward for a long, hard-fought season.
The most successful coaches at each school found a way to win the egg bowl. Playing down the importance of this game or overlooking the in-state rival is not advised. That is, If you plan to stick around very long.
As fans, we always hoped and prayed that one day this game might mean something. It’s natural to feel a little jealous of our neighbors to the East in Alabama where the game always seems to have larger stakes. They certainly have a larger national media draw.
The Iron Bowl has only been supplanted by the Egg Bowl once on the TV broadcast pecking order and that was last year due to licensing issues because CBS was unable to televise a sixth Alabama game, or they probably would have.
In the last 20 years, the winner of the Iron Bowl has been split 11-10 in favor of Auburn. Alabama has six SEC western division titles over that time with three national titles. Auburn has five divisional titles and 1 national title with one undefeated season not resulting in a national title for Auburn (2004).
In the Egg Bowl in the last 20 years, the games are split evenly 10 to 10. There has only been 1 divisional champion between the teams and neither Mississippi team has gotten to the promised land of a national champion in a long, long time.
With the addition of Dan Mullen over the last few years, we have seen a glimpse of the high stakes poker that is normally reserved for the state of Alabama.
Dan Mullen successfully jump-started what was a dead rivalry in 2009 by pulling out all the stops. He put the entire focus of his program on winning the Egg Bowl. He claimed Mississippi as “Our State” for MSU fans, refused to call Ole Miss by their name and has successful stirred up strong emotions for State fans to Iron Bowl levels and beyond.
Since 2009, the Egg Bowl is now fought year round, on billboards and in the office. You see a battle for the best tailgating area, you see a battle for who can make the best post game video, a battle for who has the most students, best cheerleaders, etc.
The Bulldogs were frothing at the mouth over Dan Mullen’s first three wins in the series, but since 2012 Freeze has flipped the script on him and the despair and negativity of MSU fans are making the rivalry almost unbearable.
It’s not really enjoyable to attend the Egg Bowl in Starkville anymore, not that we ever liked going to a game at MSU but watching the games were so much fun in the 80’s and 90’s, no matter where the games were played.
Now, as an Ole Miss fan you are more likely to get in a fight defending your wife in Starkville rather than Baton Rouge.
The biggest difference in the Egg Bowl rivalry compared to the Iron Bowl rivalry and most other in-state rivalries is there is truly a lack of respect between the teams and it starts at the top. Dan Mullen’s antics when he began coaching at State were sophomoric and unprofessional which is fine and even could be seen as funny except the MSU fans take that as a license to take an even lower step.
In Alabama, the “smack” talk is tempered with the fact that either team can win the game, no matter the record. They respect each other’s talent and accomplishments and the game is more a shared event by the fans. The way things used to be here.
In Mississippi, the State fans and MSU-aligned media don’t even extend platitudes to Ole Miss. Even though Mullen has lost two of the last three games, Freeze is still referred to as a women’s high school basketball coach. NCAA sanctions are hoped and wished for by a fan base that can’t seem to beat Ole Miss in recruiting.
The absolute worst indication of where this rivalry is headed is last year’s anonymous threat to damaging the trees in the grove.
Last November, prior to the Egg Bowl in Oxford, the University Police department alerted the FBI to a hand written note that was signed, “Hail State/Go To Hell TSUN,” and threatened damage to the shrubs and trees on the Ole Miss campus.
According to University news reports the letter read: “What’s going to happen to ya’ll on the field Saturday ain’t nothing compared to what’s going to happen on your beautiful campus. You won’t be the most pretty campus next year. A lot of shrubs and trees are going to die; especially in the Grove.”
The childish threat ended with the sentence, “Can’t stop us.”
UPD Police chief Calvin Sellers reminded everyone of reality. “We encourage everyone to remember that this is a game, after all, not a time for hate. We are hopeful that passions have not escalated to the point that someone is prepared to damage a landmark for which all Mississippian’s take great pride.”
While Mullen and the MSU fans are busy fighting Ole Miss off the field, Hugh Freeze takes the right approach by having a professional attitude and wins the game on the field.
Let’s get this rivalry back to the point where we can look each other in the eye, shake hands like a man and respect our opponents, win or lose.