Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bowl berths mean early Christmas for players

Randy King

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Soon after Virginia Tech’s 2004 football team received a bid to face Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, backup quarterback Sean Glennon overheard some of his older teammates jabbering about what may be forthcoming in their bowl "goody" bags.

Glennon, a true freshmen at the time, had absolutely no idea that Christmas was about to come early.

"The upperclassmen were talking about bowl gifts," Glennon recalled last Saturday. "I didn’t know anything about bowl gifts. I wasn’t expecting that. I was like, ‘We get gifts?’ I thought we’d get a ring, that’s about it."

A couple weeks later, Glennon was among the 110 or so players on the Hokies’ bowl travel roster who received a portable cooking grille and a portable DVD player, plus assorted other gifts from the Sugar Bowl folks.

"I wasn’t prepared for all that, so it was definitely a pleasant surprise," said Glennon, who has stocked up since on gifts from Tech’s appearances in the Gator Bowl two years ago and the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year.

"We’ve gotten some good ones. Last year, we got an iPod with an iPod stereo. We look forward to it every year. As soon as we get a bowl game, we’re asking Lester [Karlin, Hokies equipment manager], ‘What’s our gifts this year?’ It’s like Christmas!"

The Orange Bowl’s Santa Claus dropped off gift bags in Blacksburg for the 117 Tech players making the trip last week. The big perk was a $300 Sony BRAVIA theatre system, which includes a digital media port, five-disc DVD/CD player and five-speaker surround system BRAVIA stereo system. Each player also received an Orange Bowl watch, hat, blanket and garment bag, plus a framed team photograph.

"I hooked [stereo system] all up, it’s in my apartment right now," Glennon said. "I watched a movie and had the movie theatre sound going. It’s really nice."

NCAA rules allow for each of the 32 bowl games to give players from each team up to $500 worth of gifts. The NCAA increased the limit from $350 to $500 in 2005.

Additionally, the NCAA allows the schools to shower the players with another $350 worth of gifts. This usually includes a bowl ring and such side items as warmup suits and sweatshirts.

The perks don’t stop there, however. Each player also receives a check from the school that covers per diem and travel money. Glennon and the rest of the players on Tech’s dress squad each received a check for approximately $900. Scout-team players receive a smaller check.

That check covers money for a players’ expenditures while they’re in Blacksburg practicing for the bowl when school is not in session, plus per diem and travel money for their bowl stay in Miami.

Brandon Flowers, Corey Gordon, Hunter Ovens and Matt Davidson, four players from Florida who are not traveling on Tech’s charter plane from Roanoke to Miami on Friday, Dec. 28, received checks for considerably lower amounts since they are driving from their homes to Miami. Each’s plane flight home following Friday’s final practice in Blacksburg are covered by the school.

When asked how he planned on spending his sudden windfall, Glennon sounded very much like a guy who had graduated with a degree in finance a day earlier.

"You can pocket it or you can blow it," he said. "I usually put about half in the bank and with the other half I say I’m going to have a good time at our bowl site."

Do most guys blow the whole wad?

"I’d say about half and half," said Glennon, laughing.

That's still fun, though. No wonder players don’t grumble much about having to practice another additional two weeks for a bowl game.

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