As the debate over whether college athletes in the so-called “revenue sports” should be paid continues, thousands of football players headed to postseason bowl games are anticipating swag. NCAA rules allow bowl hosts to provide players with goody bags. David Broughton has perused the offerings for the Sports Business Journal, and he filled in Bill Littlefield.
BL: David, what kinds of gifts are we talking about here? Commemorative pins and key chains? Candy bars?
DB: Well, the days of the players getting off the bus and walking to the hotel lobby and getting a bag handed to them with t-shirts, sneakers, and key chains is definitely long over. The conversion over to higher value gifts —mainly electronics — started seven or eight years ago.
And this year I think the Southern Motion-powered home theater recliner is going to a pretty darn popular item. There’s two different recliners the players can choose from, and you can plug two different devices in there and not even have to leave your chair I guess.
BL: Is there a limit to how much these hosts can spend to fill a goody bag? And it would have to be a pretty big goody bag to contain a recliner.
DB: Yeah, the bowl host committee themselves can spend up to $550 per participant and that means players and coaches. Each school can have 125 participants.
BL: You have tracked these gift packages before. Has anything ever come close to matching the PlayStation 4 that players from Maryland and Marshall will receive at the Military Bowl.
DB: The answer is no as far as a single item. That’s going to be a pretty good gift.
BL: Florida State and Auburn will be playing for the BCS National Championship. So what do the players get in that game — a new car?
DB: No, they’re still at the $550 limit. Or actually they’re right at the $550 limit. The Seminoles and Tigers will be getting to go into a gift suite. There’s literally hundreds of items that you go through a checklist, and each item’s on a certain tier, and the players just check ‘em off until they get up to the $550 limit. And then the bowl committee themselves is responsible for sending them to your house, and you walk out and you’re done.
BL: This is like these contests that you used to be able to win when you were a little kid — you know, you win the contest, you get 90 seconds in the toy store and grab everything you can get, and 90 seconds you’re out of there with all of it.
DB: They’re all kids anyway, right?
BL: Big kids.
DB: Yeah, very big kids. You should see the recliner.
BL: I see that participants in this year’s Hyundai Sun Bowl will receive a Helen of Troy hair dryer. How many of those do you suppose will be left behind for the cleanup crew?
DB: That is a nod to a local business that has provided those products to the bowl committee for a half-century. So the hair dryers are just a fun little thing.
BL: All right, I understand the distinction between a gift and actual cash that would change hands, but suppose some of these items in the gift bags turn up on eBay. Does the NCAA come after the guys who put ‘em up there?
DB: Not really. It’s 15 different games that give a bowl-emblazoned watch. I’ve talked to players who have five watches at home. “I was in school for five years. I’ve got five watches.” They do appear on eBay but it’s pretty tough to chase those kind of things down.