In the hearts of fans who love the quirky and sometimes absurd side of college football, this endeavor turned into the main event at the 2021 Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte. Allie Mowbray, who works at the marketing agency that serves Duke’s as a client, took turns with others rigorously stirring the massive serving of mayonnaise. They whipped it with a flagpole because normal kitchen utensils weren’t big enough for the job, then stirred more just before the dump. After his team won, South Carolina Coach Shane Beamer sat in a folding chair with a hat as his only protection, and mayonnaise rained down from above.
Inspired by fellow bowl games that reward winning coaches with celebratory baths not of Gatorade but of the food of sponsors — including french fries, Cheez-Its and a kale smoothie — Duke’s Mayo joined in on the chaos. The company first sponsored the bowl game in 2020, then unveiled what became a high-profile mayo dump last year. With this season’s edition of the Friday bowl, Maryland’s Michael Locksley and North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren will compete on the field and for the opportunity to be doused with the creamy condiment made of oil and eggs.
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“We realize that Duke’s mayonnaise sponsoring a bowl is weird,” said Joe Tuza, president of Duke’s. “We got that. It’s not a traditional bowl sponsorship.”
And Miller Yoho, director of communications and marketing for the Charlotte Sports Foundation, which organizes the bowl game, understands that this is not the College Football Playoff. Teams don’t start the season aspiring for a mid-tier bowl.
So the Mayo Bowl embraces the silliness, trying to “become a part of the fabric of college football,” Yoho said. If Duke’s took itself too seriously with this sponsorship, Tuza said, “the reality is we would just fall in line with the rest of the bowls.” But with its engagement Twitter account and a dump that turns into a viral videothe Mayo Bowl has managed to stand out.
Duke’s wanted to have a mayonnaise dump in 2020, but officials at Bank of America Stadium bucked at the possibility of mayonnaise splattering on the playing surface. Mowbray, who works at Bespoke Sports & Entertainment, said the idea of mayonnaise packets dumped on the winning coach was also vetoed. The risk of a packet getting stomped and squirting was too much to overcome.
Instead, the Mayo Bowl generated buzz by teasing a dump with coolers fashioned to look like mayonnaise jars stationed on each sideline. But after Wisconsin won the game and players lifted the cooler over their coach’s head, white Gatorade streamed out.
Yoho told a team of staffers: “That was awesome. We can never fake people out again because they will never forgive us.”
That started the months-long process to find a solution. Mowbray and a colleague hauled batches of mayonnaise to a field to experiment with water-to-mayonnaise ratios. The first attempt was so watery that it no longer looked like mayonnaise. After trying several versions, they landed on whipped mayonnaise without water. (Beamer’s dump has been reported as slightly watered-down mayonnaise, but Mowbray – who ran the tests, then stirred the concoction on game day and was one of two dumpers – said no water was added. Intense stirring made the mayo look runny.)
The Mayo Bowl asks for someone associated with the university to participate. But in the dump’s two-year history, it has a perfect record of getting coaches to agree, and Duke’s donates $10,000 to the coach’s charity of choice.
The mayo dump takes place in a stadium tunnel near a drain. The controlled environment eliminates the spontaneity of other celebratory showers, but mayonnaise compensates with its sloppiness. One tweeted video of last year’s messy scene accumulated 2.7 million views.
It went well with just one mishap: The cooler hit Beamer in the head.
The Mayo Bowl leaned in to the mistake, similar to when Wisconsin broke the trophy in 2020, then replaced the shattered crystal football with a mayonnaise bottle. The Mayo Bowl ran with it, depicting the makeshift trophy on T-shirts. A year later, Duke’s sent Beamer a care package with a hard hat and Tylenol. Tuza calls moments like these “a forward fumble.”
In response to the Beamer mishap, the Mayo Bowl announced in November that it would launch a “national search” for new dumpers. A group dubbed as the selection committee landed on Kevin DeValk and Allison Vick, who will be tasked with dumping the mayo and keeping the cooler away from the coach’s head.
DeValk, a 35-year-old engineer for a heavy truck manufacturer, has photos saved on his phone featuring last season’s mayo dump. He bought a water cooler the day the Mayo Bowl announced that fans were candidates to be chosen.
“I didn’t know how much chance I was going to have,” DeValk said. “I saw people with blue check marks out there throwing their hat in the ring.”
DeValk, who lives in Winston-Salem, NC, and grew up a Wisconsin fan, delivered an extensive submission via social media. He drank mayo-nog and baked a chocolate cake with mayonnaise. He printed a yard sign – “Vote Klurt for Mayo Dumper” – using a nickname that stuck among the online community of college football fans who rallied behind his campaign. And he made a “Rocky”-inspired montage training to prove he could lift the cooler.
Vick, an NC State graduate, is a baker in Raleigh, and she owns Little Blue Bakehouse, where she sells her macarons and provides space for other bakers to sell their goods. She loves Duke’s Mayo, especially on both sides of the grilled cheese bread. When Duke’s offered free mayo-themed tattoos in Richmond, she almost traveled to get one.
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Vick doesn’t have a Twitter account but heard about the mayo dumper search process through a friend. Vick was making Duke’s-themed macarons for a mayo-loving restaurant owner. She incorporated mayonnaise in the ganache, which did not change the taste but added a glossy look. Vick filmed the process and let that double as her submission.
Duke’s looked for fans who loved its brand and college football, and DeValk and Vick won the job. Now they’ll be responsible for performing a perfect dump. Vick feels comfortable with the dumping motion because she often lifts and pours giant bags of ingredients in the kitchen, and at 5-foot-3, she often has to throw trash bags into a large dumpster.
They’ll get a practice run the day before the game – first the dumping motion, then with mayo. An additional person will stand behind the cooler to support if needed, because as much as the Mayo Bowl joked about the knock to Beamer’s head, nobody involved wants a repeat showing.
The mayonnaise that landed on Beamer “came out in little spurts,” Mowbray said, so she has considered adding cooking spray to the jug this year, but that might be a game-time decision. In the ideal dump, she said, “The mayo just comes right out – like a flood.”