The bowl matchups are set and the swag bags are being filled. Actually, I doubt that the swag bags are being filled already, but I’m sure the story telling us what will be in those bags is already coming together…oh…wait…it’s already done.
Sports Business Daily has your complete list right here.
This is still one of the stranger bowl traditions out there. The NCAA allows the bowls to give up to $550 worth of gifts to 125 team members per school. There was a simpler time when there were but a handful of bowls and if you went to the right one, you might get a Rolex. Alas, the days of in-house movements and Swiss luxury are gone, but watches remain a common gift and something of a throwback to the origins of this entire practice. That said, most of the bowl gifts clearly reflect the preferences of the modern athlete, a POV I can’t totally inhabit, but I’m going to give out some awards for the best bowl gifts anyway.
Best Watch: That Tourneau watch for Orange Bowl participants looks the most enticing to me, but I suspect the Apple Watch for players in the Alamo Bowl will probably win this category. Some of the fittest people in the country probably don’t need to be reminded when to stand up, but I think the rest of the features will be well received.
Best Bespoke Gift: Participants in the Quick Lane Bowl will get a life-sized Fathead of themselves, which prompts me to ask — What do you do with that? Do you, the football player, stick a to-scale photo of yourself playing football on the wall of your student apartment? Give it to your parents? It just seems really strange. The custom bobblehead handed out by the TaxSlayer Bowl seems much more reasonable. If you have a bobblehead of yourself on your desk, it’s kind of fun. Personal Fathead on your wall? That’s creepy.
Best Carry-on: There are backpacks and duffels galore again this year — better to hold all the swag — and I’m in no way capable of discerning one from the other with one exception. If you’re playing in the Dollar General bowl you’re getting a leather duffel bag, which sounds different and good. We should all make more of an effort when we travel anyway.
Most Concerning Absence: Where is the famous Sun Bowl hairdryer? It’s not listed here, and if the Sun Bowl can’t give out hairdryers any more, what’s the point of anything? Please tell me this is just an omission.
Greatest Mystery: The Cotton Bowl refused to disclose its gifts, which makes me wonder what the Cotton Bowl is up to, but I’m more interested in the “iconic gift” that the four playoff teams will be receiving. Iconic is not a word you throw around lightly, and, frankly, hard to achieve when gift giving. I mean, how many truly iconic gifts have you ever received in your life? It’s a tough threshold to hit.
Part of me hopes that maybe the “iconic gift” is but a ruse, a clever bit of social commentary. In my mind, a playoff representative gathers all these hulking players from the four best teams in the country around and says: “Look, fellas, I know everyone is excited to find out about the iconic gift. But here’s the thing — you’ve had the gift the whole time. The only gift iconic enough for a playoff team is the gift of the relationships you’ve built this season, the work you put in to get here, the memories you’ve made. Now let’s go out there and have a great game!”
Almost in unison, the players unclamp the headphones from their muscled necks — headphones awarded to them at some previous run-of-the-mill bowl game — slide them back on their ears and get back to thinking about destroying the other team.
The Grab Bag
- John Adams of the Knoxville News Sentinel writes that this Nebraska-Tennessee matchup is one fit for the 1990s.
- Is Iowa trumping Nebraska for the Outback Bowl bid another salvo in a developing rivalry?
- Rodger Sherman explains why the CFP selection committee got it right.
- Really interesting investigative piece on FieldTurf and allegedly faulty turf.
- ICYMI: Mike Riley spoke with the media Sunday for the first time since the Iowa game and offered some updates on the coaching staff, recruiting, injuries and more.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.