Swag. It was a little-known term until a few years ago, most often used to describe a drooping curtain. Amazing how slang can take something boring and make it cool. These days, swag is a common word modified from its other definition of stolen property or loot to describe all the freebies athletes get when they enter a competition.
"Stuff We All Get."
It might be a shirt for a marathon runner, a water bottle for a biker or an assortment of goodies. Usually the goods aren't of significant value, just a few things sponsors provide tossed into a plastic bag with an entry number.
But bowl season is when the weekend warrior becomes envious of college football players. No little plastic bag is good enough to hold the haul of free stuff provided by bowl game sponsors.
Players receive up to $850 in merchandise - $500 from bowls and $350 from the players' school. This year, Utah's players will receive a watch and Samsung MP3 player from the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl and a $240 gift card from Best Buy from the school, in addition to other gifts.
BYU's players will receive an Xbox 360 from the school and a Pioneer Navigation System from the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl, along with clothing and other items.
"It's sweet, because it's also Christmas time," BYU linebacker Bryan Kehl said. "It's like getting another set of presents. Some of us were talking the other night, and someone said, 'You know what? We deserve those gifts for all the hard work we've done.' "
The limits are in place so bowls can't try to do outdo each other. The limit was increased from $350 to $500 last year, which gives the bowls plenty of ways to lavish gifts on players. Bowls must provide gift packages for 125 players per team, or a total of close to $125,000 in merchandise.
Bowls take their player gifts as seriously as any other aspect of planning, with several meetings and discussions to hash out just what the list will include.
"It's a crazy process, but no one wants to give a cruddy gift," said Tina Kunzer-Murphy, the executive director of the Las Vegas Bowl. "As a player, you can only use so many watches or sweat shirts. We try to come up with one big item that is something different."
Not surprisingly, technology-related gifts are popular items. Portable DVD players, games, camcorders and iPods are all common.
"It's definitely one of the perks that comes with making it to a bowl game," BYU lineman Jake Kuresa said. "None of us can afford the kind of stuff we get. When I was a sophomore and we didn't make it to a bowl game, a lot of guys were like, 'No Christmas, no Christmas.' "
Team captains often have a lot of input when deciding what the university gift is going to be. Satisfying more than 100 players is one of the reasons Utah is using the gift cards, which can't be exchanged for cash.
"Instead of buying 120 camcorders that 50 of them are going to like and 50 won't, we give them the card," said Steve Pyne, Utah's event coordinator. "They all crave the technology. You see them all walking around campus with those white cables coming out of their ears. Who knows, maybe they're listening to the lecture they just heard, but probably not."
Staff writer Jay Drew contributed to this report.
BYU players will receive . . .
From Las Vegas Bowl:
* Pioneer Navigation System
* ESPN Trivia Game
* Subscription to ESPN the Magazine
* Oakley-brand bowl beanie
* Bowl cap
* Xbox 360
Utah players will receive . . .
From Armed Forces Bowl:
* Rolling duffle bag
* Workout shirt
* Samsung MP3 player
* Mini helmet
* Commemorative football
* $240 Best Buy gift card
* Premier half zip fleece
* Overnight bag
* Bowl plaque