For decades, bowl gift packages were the only gifts of monetary value that student-athletes could legally receive under NCAA rules. That’s thankfully no longer the case, because most of these packages, which are worth up to $550, are pretty lame. At least, as far as we can tell.
We don’t have the full picture because 24 of the 43 bowl matchups offer “gift suites” that allow for players to choose from a range of options. The gift suite is typically an actual room where players can peruse the items up for grabs. The rest of the bowl committees choose the gifts themselves.
Sports Business Journal revealed on Wednesday nearly all of the prizes that will be distributed to players in the coming weeks. Let’s see which presents will end up as treasured keepsakes—and which will be buried at the bottom of moving boxes for years to come.
5. Servpro First Responder Bowl (Air Force vs. Louisville)
Gift suite; Action Face personalized figure; Anker phone charger; commemorative football
This package merits mention because of the Action Face personalized figure, which is making its first bowl gift package appearance this year. The players in this game and the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (Missouri-Army) will have headshot photos taken and choose a football pose, then the company will use a 3D printer to build a personalized action figure for each player. The end product could be really cool or a beautiful disaster. Either way, it’s a lot more interesting than most of the alternatives.
4. TaxSlayer Gator Bowl (Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M)
Maui Jim sunglasses fitting; Fossil watch; waterproof Bluetooth speaker; noise-canceling headphones; powerbank; Tile Bluetooth wireless tracker
As a Tile owner, I can say it’s saved me from losing my phone, wallet and keys numerous times. Forgetful college students could certainly benefit from its uses. The other items included here are far from unique among the gift packages, but this is a solid collection of some of the best ones.
3. EasyPost Hawai‘i Bowl (Memphis vs. Hawai’i)
Electronics gift suite; sunglasses and backpack; Kahala aloha shirt; beach towel; swim trunks
I’m putting a lot of trust in the electronics gift suite here, but the fact it was distinguished from all the other gift suites gives me hope that there are some sweet gadgets in there for the Tigers and Rainbow Warriors. I also have to stand up for the aloha shirt as someone who owns countless shirts of that ilk; any college-aged man looking to start his collection could certainly do worse than the Kahala brand. I usually just find them at my local thrift store at a heavy discount, but you do need some quality threads mixed in with the tackier looks.
2. Valero Alamo Bowl (Oregon vs. Oklahoma)
$490 Mastercard gift card by University Fancards; Ice Shaker bottle; mini-helmet; team panoramic photo
The Alamo Bowl is one of several games giving its participants cash-equivalent gift cards of at least $350. Cash is king (or at least good for second place here), and the Alamo Bowl is using nearly its entire inventory on it. So we’ll feature the high-quality Pac-12 vs. Big 12 matchup here despite its uninspired secondary offerings. You can consider the Ducks lucky, as they received our No. 1-ranked gift last year.
1. PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (Notre Dame v. Oklahoma State)
PlayStation 5 console and a TBD game
This is the second straight year that Sony has given the Fiesta Bowl’s participants its highly sought after PS5, which is still hard to find at some stores over a year after its release. College kids love video games, and this gift spares them the guilt of spending their hard-earned cash on a flashy system.
5. TaxAct Texas Bowl (Kansas State vs. LSU)
Gift suite; Nike backpack, hat and drawstring bag; belt buckle; cowboy hat; bandana
Aside from the gift suite, are these items just left over from every student orientation from the colleges around Texas?
4. Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl (San Diego State vs. UTSA)
Gift suite; Herschel backpack; Justin cowboy hat; Big Game autograph football; beanie; commemorative coin; lapel pin
I suppose you can count me as anti-cowboy hat? As one of millions of people who was duped into thinking in the ’90s that those state coins would one day be valuable, you can definitely put me down as anti-commemorative coins.
3. San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl (N.C. State vs. UCLA)
Gift suite; fleece hoodie; short sleeve T-shirt; long sleeve T-shirt
It’s hard to properly rank the worst gift packages because the suites are such a black box. But throwing in a hoodie and a couple shirts as the secondary items is pretty uninspired for a bowl based in the beautiful city of San Diego.
2. Bahamas Bowl (MTSU vs. Toledo)
Board shorts; Ice Shaker bottle; beach towel; string backpack; lapel pin; additional item TBD
No gift suite, just a bunch of things you need for a beach day. The real prize here is the trip to the Bahamas.
1. Tailgreeter Cure Bowl (Coastal Carolina vs. Northern Illinois)
Hoodie; long sleeve dri-fit T-shirt; flexfit performance hat; deluxe duffel bag; wireless power bank; Ice Shaker bottle
Just a bunch of clothes and accessories that every student-athlete already owns. When a wireless charger may be the most useful thing in your bowl gift bag, you know you got hosed.
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