It’s college football bowl game season and you know what that means: It’s time for NCAA athletes to receive something of monetary value other than their scholarships.
The NCAA allows bowl game committees to offer players a package of gifts worth up to $550. But while the dollar value of the packages may be uniform, their practical value varies. College students might be much more interested in receiving a bluetooth speaker than a cowboy hat, for instance.
As usual, Sports Business Daily has rounded up the gift offerings from each of this year’s bowl games. There are lots of watches, backpacks and gift cards, as well as the always mysterious “gift suite” (which offers players the ability to choose between multiple gift options). Let’s look at the five best and five worst packages players will receive this season.
5. Valero Alamo Bowl (Utah vs. Texas)
(Apple AirPods Pro; $115 Amazon gift card; Michael Kors watch; helmet; team panoramic photo)
AirPods are all the rage these days and an Amazon gift card is wonderfully versatile.
4. RedBox Bowl (Cal vs. Illinois)
(Nintendo Switch Lite; Nixon watch; Turtle Beach gaming headphones; Herschel Supply Co. backpack; Goodr sunglasses)
That Nintendo is going to be great for underclassmen who have more long travel days ahead of them next season and as the owner of a Herschel backpack I must admit that’s an appealing option as well.
3. Quick Lane Bowl (Pittsburgh vs. Eastern Michigan)
(Best Buy gift card; JBL E55BT over-ear wireless headphones by Harman; Sticker Genius life-sized PhotoSlap decal for each participant of his likeness; hoodie; T-shirt; pom hat; backpack and tag; football; mini helmet)
If only in terms of sheer number of items, this is a loaded package. The Best Buy gift card or the headphones might seem like the highlight of the haul but don’t sleep on that life-sized sticker.
2. PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (Clemson vs. Ohio State)
(PlayStation PS4 gift package; Fossil watch; Ogio Shuttle Pack backpack; “History of The Bowls: Celebrating the Good of The Game” book; Ice Shaker insulated bottle)
The book about how great bowl games are is lame but that PS4 is just about the best gift a college student could hope for.
1. Military Bowl (North Carolina vs. Temple)
(60" Vizio LED V Series 4K Ultra HD HDR Smart TV, Megaboom LE wireless portable speaker)
That’s an enormous television, especially if you’re living in the sort of cramped quarters college students do. My college TV (which I still use, nine years later) was about half that size. At $479.99 (plus tax), it’s also a very expensive TV.
5. Belk Bowl (Florida State vs. Arizona State)
(Shopping trip to Belk department store; Wenger watch)
It’s not the most exciting gift option, but Belk is the kind of store where you can get all the essentials. Even though it won’t be as flashy as some of the gifts players get from other bowl games, they can still shop for clothes, shoes and various home goods.
4. Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl (Boise State vs. Washington)
(Gift suite; socks; beanie; portable charger)
There’s a lot riding on the gift suite to deliver here because if the list of gifts includes “socks” there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed.
3. Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl (SMU vs. FAU)
(Online gift suite; assortment of bowl-branded items)
Usually the gift suite is an actual room where players can walk around and look at their options in the flesh. Turning that into an online shopping experience takes away much of the fun.
And that gift suite better be pretty amazing if the only other items players will receive are branded with the logo of a cherry juice company and the name of a city that translates to “mouse’s mouth.”
2. New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Michigan State vs. Wake Forest)
(JBL/Harmon gift card; a variety of New Era products)
New Era apparently makes more than just hats but it still would be nice to have a little more variety here.
1. Servpro First Responder Bowl (Western Kentucky vs. Western Michigan)
(Gift suite; Parkland duffle bag; football; Nine Line Apparel patriotic athletic wear)
Even if you’re the kind of person whose politics align with the sort of shirts Nine Line sells (with phrases like “I Stand for Our National Anthem” and “Stomp My Flag, I’ll Stomp Your Ass”), you have to admit they look hideous. I thought people stopped wearing shirts with big blocks of text on them in like 2008.