It's the most wonderful time of the year.
It's bowl season, and for its many participants, it's a lot better than Christmas because of all the ridiculous swag they get for just showing up. That's right: Even the backup punter can indulge in a litany of gifts ranging from electronics to clothing for simply being in the bowl game travel party.
Every year, Sports Business Daily breaks down the gifts from every bowl, giving us an opportunity to either mock or marvel at what these young men are receiving for their postseason berths. While being in the national championship or a BCS bowl is a great reward, sometimes the minor bowls have better prizes.
Take, for instance, the New Orleans Bowl, which is giving out Samsung Galaxy tablets or the Beef O'Brady's Bowl, which is handing out Sony PlayStation 3's. The Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas is dishing out 32-inch Toshiba flat screens (how do they get those home?) and the Military Bowl is giving out a Kindle Fire and an iPod Nano (lucky Toledo and Air Force). Some bowls don't even want to guess and are just doling out Best Buy gift cards ranging from $150 to $420.
But the best swag package of all comes from the bowls that have gift suites (including the Armed Forces Bowl, which has a Sony gift suite), which allow players to run around like children on Christmas morning and pick the items they want. Each player is allowed up to $550 in merchandise, according to NCAA rules.
But not all bowl-bound players are this lucky. Sometimes the shirts, sweatshirts, hats, etc., are the best things on the bowl lists because the bowl simply doesn't generate enough money to provide the finer postseason fare. Like the New Mexico Bowl, which is giving a Christmas ornament and a "pen with box." Sure the pen is probably a commemorative item and the box is probably nice, but if you're 19 years old, it's a lame gift. (Sorry, Temple and Wyoming.) The Little Caesars Bowl is giving out a leather duffel bag and commemorative football. And of course the Sun Bowl — which used to give out Brut cologne, as if its participants were 60-year-old men — is still giving out the Helen of Troy hair dryers, which will be a hit with the girlfriends of players from Georgia Tech and Utah.
While the game is important, this is what most players think about when the bowls are announced. As the postseason starts to evolve and the bowl system moves to the direction of a Plus-One, the focus on the swag will stay the same. Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis, when asked about a possible "Final Four" format in college football, put it best: "Do I still get a bowl gift?"
Unfortunately for him, this year's gift from the Gator Bowl is a rolling luggage bag.