Saturday evening, the University of Georgia faced off with LSU in the SEC Championship with a spot in the College Football Playoffs on the line. This was expected to be a fiercely competitive battle, but Joe Burrow and the Tigers romped en route to a 37-10 victory. However, the final score was not the aspect of the game that drew the most attention and/or criticism.
With the teams in the locker room for halftime, Dr. Pepper set up two decorative targets at one end of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Next to those were Dr. Pepper-branded garbage cans full of footballs. Two football fans were given the opportunity to toss those balls toward the targets in pursuit of $100,000.
very good chest passing form, Andrea
Andrea also made sure to thank God and Dr. Pepper. pic.twitter.com/diHa6Om9SL— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) December 7, 2019
Medical student Andrea Gathercole won the ultimate prize after making the majority of her shots while veterinary sciences major Max Wunsche was the runner-up. He was given $25,000 as a second-place prize.
For many on social media, this was a happy moment as one of the football fans gained a sizable chunk of change to aid in their education. However, this was not an opinion shared by everyone. Instead, there were far more that wanted to criticize this halftime pursuit. Specifically, why was this required?
As multiple users explained on Twitter, watching football fans compete in an effort to alleviate some of the student loan debt was just terrible. They couldn't believe that this "game" was necessary for the modern era.
(Photo Credit: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire/Getty)
My English wife is watching aghast at the dystopian @drpepper halftime competition during #LSUvsUGA, in which 2 needy college kids throw footballs into inflatable soda cans, the winner getting $100k in tuition money from the soda company, the loser doomed to a lifetime of debt— Christopher Mathias (@letsgomathias) December 7, 2019
Attending college is not inexpensive by any stretch, and student loans have been a major talking point on Capitol Hill and during the presidential debates. Many companies such as Navient are viewed as predatory due to the interest rates on their loans, as well as the high payment plans after graduation.
As it turns out, this is primarily a discussion in the United States. Those outside the nation's borders are not familiar with the student loan system and were caught off guard by this Dr. Pepper challenge.
At halftime in the SEC Championship game they make kids throw footballs into trash cans to win tuition money. Only one of these kids can get that medical degree, and it'll be the football trash can champion!— Ryan Beck (@iamryanbeck) December 7, 2019
The medical student may have been on the winning end of this competition, but how much of an impact did the money have on her student loan debt? $100,000 is a large amount and will provide some assistance in the future. Will it be enough for the winning competitor?
Going to medical school is an expensive proposition, and students can often graduate with $170,000 in debt. If this number holds true for Andrea Gathercole, she will have some relief but won't be completely debt-free.
Andrea Gathercole is a better passer than Jake Fromm.— Slice (@SilasDeJean) December 7, 2019
There was no denying that the Dr. Pepper competition was drawing the ire of many football fans. Many were simply shocked by the amount of student loan debt while others couldn't believe that this was being viewed as something humorous. For other fans, however, there was something far more important to focus on during this halftime challenge.
Specifically, the University of Georgia fans wanted to know if Andrea Gathercole was allowed to suit up for their favorite team. The Bulldogs and quarterback Jake Fromm were struggling mightily against LSU, and the hope was that this medical student could mount a comeback.
Jake Fromm may have been one of the targets of criticism during this debate about the Dr. Pepper challenge, but he was not the only quarterback receiving criticism. In fact, some football fans wanted to discuss a veteran presence in the NFL. Does Andrea Gathercole have a better arm than "Old Man Rivers?"
For context, the player in question is Philip Rivers, the quarterback of the Los Angeles Chargers. Originally drafted in 2004, he has been one of the more productive players at his position, but 2019 has been a struggle. Rivers has thrown for 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, the most since 2016, while the Chargers have fallen to last place in the AFC West.
The Dr. Pepper 🏈 -tossing contest for scholarship $$$ is a pretty elaborate ad/tax write-off.
Much love to Andrea and the rest of the winners/runner-ups.
College is an overpriced socio-requirement.
Hopefully, one day we don’t need gimmicks to get kids thru school debt-free.— Jonah Javad (@JonahJavad) December 7, 2019
The Dr. Pepper tossing contest certainly drew its fair share of criticism on Saturday night, but it also drew some mixed reactions from the football fans. On one hand, it was nice for the fans to watch a needy student secure some financial assistance. However, many didn't want to celebrate this halftime game due to struggling with the concept.
Student loan debt has been a major source of contention for many years, and it will continue to be for the foreseeable future. This will also be a part of the 2020 election as candidates look to prove that they can provide a satisfactory result.
One downside of @ewarren's universal free college plan is no more Dr. Pepper halftime challenge, where college students throw footballs through large, inflatable soda cans for $100k in tuition money.— Bharat Ramamurti (@BharatRamamurti) December 8, 2019
One of the presidential hopefuls is U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. She has hopes of securing the Democratic nomination and then securing a spot in the Oval Office by winning the 2020 election. This is relevant considering that one of Warren's focuses is the amount of student loan debt in the country and how she wants to change the system.
Of course, if Warren happened to win the election, she would set about removing student loan debt while providing free education. How would this affect the future of the Dr. Pepper challenge?
The strangest part of this are the 3 officials intensely watching the participants. You know one wanted to throw a flag 😂😂😂 😂😂 😂— Colt Alton 🌄 (@alton512) December 8, 2019
Is the system broken? Is there too much student loan debt in this country? For many football fans, that was not their primary concern. They had far more important things to focus on during this SEC Championship game and the Dr. Pepper challenge.
Specifically, there were some fans that spent the entire event watching the referees that were in charge of the whole event. Were they preparing to throw a penalty flag on one of these students? What penalties could even be called?
The guy’s right handed. He’s standing on the wrong side of the barrel. The girl is at a distinct advantage. Nobody is throwing a football the way its meant to me thrown.— Leon L'Heureux (@unclefecal) December 8, 2019
There were multiple aspects of this Dr. Pepper challenge that drew the attention of the fans on Saturday evening. Some were concerned about the amount of student loan debt that would require this style of game. Others wanted to think about how the two competitors would improve Georgia's offense.
However, there was the third portion of users on Twitter that were greatly troubled by the entire situation and how the players were arranged. In their opinion, the male competitor was at a distinct disadvantage due to his bucket of footballs being on the wrong side.