Bowl Gifts From Bad To Good
ORLANDO, Fla. — One of the perks of playing in a bowl game is the gift, or gifts, each player receives. While the monetary value isn’t huge (this year’s NCAA-mandated maximum is $550), getting some custom-made items or a gift card for a big box store is a nice bump, especially around the holiday season. West Virginia’s gift box from the Camping World Bowl includes an Ogio backpack, a Fossil watch and a $400 Best Buy gift card.
WVU’s Reese Donahue, among others, plans to use some of his gift card for his fiancee, Sarah Moore, who he famously proposed to after a Mountaineer game earlier this year. Many other teammates will likely follow suit, and use their cards to purchase items for family gifts. The gift cards, to different retail establishments, are popular among bowls, with no fewer than eight offering them in various denominations this year. Other shopping trips to bowl-established gift suites, where players can pick from several items, are also on the menu. That was the case for West Virginia in the Heart of Dallas Bowl last year.
The topic of bowl gifts brought to mind some of the better, or worse, gifts from bowls to players over the years. As noted, gift cards, as well as gaming consoles, are almost always a hit. In more recent years, headphones, external speakers and other accessories for the digital life are well-received. This year, products from Yeti are popping up.
On the bad side, there was one item that seemed to be a good choice that turned out not to be well-received. That was part of West Virginia’s gift suite from the 2006 Sugar Bowl — a bicycle with a custom Sugar Bowl paint scheme. At the time, that looked like a nice, and distinctive gift, but that opinion wasn’t met by a number of members of that team, thereby proving the point that it’s tough to find items that please everyone.
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That sparked another train of thought — bowl gifts for the media. The quality and desirability of those items has been far more uneven over the years, often reflecting the level of the bowl game itself as well as the budget with which it has to operate.
I can’t remember every gift from the WVU bowl games I’ve covered, but without question the one I like the best was the custom throw from that same Sugar Bowl game. It’s a full size knit throw that has the full design of a football field on it, complete with team end zones (West Virginia and Georgia) plus the bowl logo at the 50. I’m the only person that’s allowed to use it.
A close second was the suite of Oakley sunglasses at the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. If memory serves correctly, there were at least 5-6 different models of shades, and they weren’t of the cheap variety. Go in, peruse the options, and make your pick. (Bonus points for the massive snack room where Frito-Lay reps were handing out double armfuls of large bags of every snack and dip product made by the company.)
Other standouts include pullovers from the Orange Bowl and the Liberty Bowl. The former, an all-black model, and the latter, which came in both red and blue, are still staples of my wardrobe today. All are comfortable and practical, and isn’t that what we all want when clothes are the gift?
Three trips to the Gator Bowl in four years ended up scoring attendees a complete luggage set. One year it was a suit bag, the next a duffle bag, and the third a larger case, all with quality Gator Bowl logos embroidered on them.
Some oddities include the pop socket from last year’s Heart of Dallas Bowl (it’s still on my phone) and the bat signal penlight from the Big East basketball tournament. That small device, designed to hook on a keyring, emitted not a beam of plain light, but rather the old Big East Conference logo.
The worst? Maybe the mini-folding umbrella from the 2002 Continental Tire Bowl, or the ski cap and T-shirt from the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl, which remains the worst-run postseason event I’ve ever attended. But hey, at least they were free.