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Ole Miss, MSU students square off for tuition

Ole Miss and Mississippi State will resume their century-plus old gridiron rivalry Saturday, but a lesser-known and equally high-stakes competition will occur between the two schools just two hours earlier in the C Spire Toss for Tuition contest.

At stake in the football showdown will be bragging rights as the best team in the Magnolia State and a possible berth in one of the coveted New Year’s six bowl games sponsored by the College Football Playoff and ESPN.  In the C Spire Toss for Tuition contest, the winner will receive free tuition for the remainder of their college education at one of the schools.

C Spire, a Mississippi-based diversified telecommunications and technology services provider, sponsored the contest earlier this month at all of its 56 retail locations in Mississippi. Hundreds of students and their family members and friends tossed bean bags on a board for a chance to be entered in the sweepstakes drawing.

Meet the finalists

The two finalists selected from the drawing were Oxford native Marlee Crawford, a 19-year-old sophomore majoring in journalism at Ole Miss and Meridian native Emily Ware, a 20-year-old junior at Mississippi State who is majoring in biochemistry with a pre-pharmacy concentration.

Both will meet at the C Spire Fan Zone near The Junction on the MSU campus Saturday afternoon to determine who will win the free college tuition.  ESPN sports talk show radio personality Bo Bounds will emcee the bean bag toss contest and the winner will be announced Saturday night during the fourth quarter of the game.

“I’m excited to be a finalist, but I’m also a little nervous because so much is riding on the outcome of this competition,” said Ware, who got multiple entries in the sweepstakes drawing when her father successfully landed a bean bag on the board in separate visits to the local C Spire retail store.  “Winning this would mean so much to me and my family.”

Crawford said she was “almost in tears” when she learned about her selection as one of the finalists. “I want to win this so bad – not just for me and my family, but for Ole Miss,” she said, noting that her mother encouraged her to enter the contest.  “I was initially reluctant because it seems like I never win anything, but this time it was different.”

Both students praised C Spire for its support of education in Mississippi. 

“A lot of kids couldn’t afford to go to college without the help of companies like C Spire because it is so expensive,” Ware said.

Crawford said: “College can be a huge financial burden for families. It’s great to see C Spire investing in the lives of college students.”

Since 2008, C Spire has donated more than $3 million to higher education causes, programs and scholarships in Mississippi through its nonprofit C Spire Foundation. 

Depending on who wins Saturday’s contest, the value of the free tuition could range up to $20,000 based on fees set by the College Board, according to Jim Richmond, vice president of Corporate Communications for C Spire.

“At C Spire, support for education has been a key focus for over 27 years and we are passionately committed to helping elementary, high school and college-age students succeed in school, in the workforce and in life,” Richmond said. “Our children are our future.”