LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- We're entering bowl season, which means the nation can turn its attention from players receiving illegal gifts to players receiving legal ones.
The difference, you ask? Well, I'm not sure.
A bowl game can lavish college football players with any number of gifts (up to a $550 limit, which actually is more that it sounds like because bowls can negotiate lower prices on items through bulk buying), but let one of those players turn around and try to sell one of those gifts on eBay, and it's an NCAA no-no.
The bowl system, of course, is a farce. Someone wrote to ask me what a crock it is that Western Kentucky didn't get invited to a bowl, but I can't muster getting worked up over it. The crock is the 60 or so other teams going to bowls that really have no business in the postseason.
But, hey, it helps lots of local economies, gives jobs to many gaudy-blazered bowl officials and in general provides TV viewing material for millions of Americans, so I say, play on.
Nobody has improved upon the takedown Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan provided in their book, "Death to the BCS."
Rumors of the death of the BCS, of course, are greatly exaggerated. While we're getting a four-team playoff next season, the concentration of college football wealth, the exclusion of have-nots and the perpetuation of a pseudo-charitable bowl system are as alive as ever. Many of the officers presiding over the new playoff, in fact, are the same people who ran the old BCS, and the conferences who devised the system are the same ones who signed onto the BCS, minus the Big East.
The BCS is the gift that will keep on giving to the power conferences and its members.
Which brings us back to the subject of gifts. When the University of Louisville goes to the Russell Athletic Bowl later this month, players will receive a $450 Best Buy gift card and shopping spree (they must spend their balance at the store that day, any left over balance is forfeited). They'll also receive a bowl watch from the Timely Time Co. (That sounds made up. Is that made up?) And a Russell Athletic workout shirt.
A year ago at the AllState Sugar Bowl, the Cards got to shop in a gift suite that included such items as HD televisions, home theater surround sound speakers, headphones, mountain bikes, cameras, watches, shoes, clothing and even a sofa.
Schools also are allowed to give players up to $400 as a gift, and conferences can give their conference champions $400.
It's a pretty good haul, in addition to meal money, hotel time and travel to nice bowl destinations (with a few exceptions.) Players get a per diem for meals, but many are able to eat at team or bowl events, or eat cheaply, to pocket that cash, as well.
It's not huge money. It may not be as much as some people think these players deserve, given the amount of money they generate. But it's also not something general students have access to. And it's not something you hear when advocacy groups cry "poverty" on the behalf of players. Not many people in poverty get a Best Buy shopping spree. Even if players aren't allowed to sell their loot.