Every year, the majority of FBS college football teams travel somewhere (usually nice and warm, but sometimes Detroit) to end their season in a bowl game.
It’s a chance to wrap up a successful year with a win in a nationally-televised game, and also to get a jump start on practice for the following year.
But bowl trips go way beyond the three hours of action on game day.
Players get a chance to be a part of fun activities, grab some free swag, and even score some free tickets for friends and family. But the NCAA has rules about just how much they can get.
Here are eight things you might not know about bowl trips, all laid out in the NCAA Postseason Bowl Handbook.
Players Get Free Tickets
Each player can get up to six free tickets for the game to share with friends and family. The NCAA Postseason Bowl Handbook says that players from other sports are not allowed to receive those tickets.
Players Get Free Stuff
Bowls are allowed to provide up to $550 worth of merchandise to each player, and are “encouraged” to shell out close to that maximum value for each player.
Only players eligible to compete in the bowl can get those gifts.
Some bowls have a standard list of gifts, while others have a “gift suite” which allows players to go on a mini-shopping spree. They can usually choose from a variety of electronics, furniture, and jewelry, and can choose one or more gifts, as long as they stay below that $550 maximum.
This year, the Rose Bowl is providing every Buckeye and Washington Husky with a watch, backpack, hat, and then a chance to round out their selections in a gift suite.
Bowls Provide Entertainment Options For Players
The Buckeyes will spend December 26 at Disney Land. That is a pretty cool perk for playing in a bowl game.
It also offers the Lowry’s Beef Bowl, where players will go and feast on prime rib at Lawry’s steakhouse.
But most bowls offer activities along those lines. Michigan and South Carolina got in a brawl during an event at a bowling alley before the Outback Bowl last year.
The NCAA doesn’t mandate a certain number of activities, but notes “most institutions prefer a maximum of two social activities.”
Players are not required to attend events the night before the game.
The Media Gets Free Stuff, Too
Bowls generally provide a small gift to media members as a “thank you” for traveling to cover the game.
This is often a bowl-branded backpack, or carry-on luggage.
The last time the Buckeyes traveled to the Rose Bowl in 2010, media got a nice set of Rose Bowl glassware.
The 2017 Cotton Bowl provided media members with an Amazon Echo Dot.
Even The Officiating Crew Gets Some Swag
Bowls provide a standardized gift, such as a bowl-branded watch, to all officials working a game.
They are also given two free tickets “in a prime location” for the game, and can attend some kind of entertainment event the day they arrive and the day before the game. However, the rules spell out that the officials should not come into contact with either team at these events.
Bowls Have To Pay The NCAA
Every bowl game has to cut the NCAA a check for $10,000 by October 1 to be certified for that season.
The NCAA Can Say No To A Bowl Sponsor
Every bowl has a title sponsor (“The Poulon Weedeater Independence Bowl” or “The Outback Bowl”) but the NCAA has final say-so on whether a company can sponsor a game.
Their rulebook says companies “that do not appear to be in the best interests of higher education and student-athletes” can be excluded.
It says that sponsor companies should not:
1. Cause harm to student-athlete health, safety and welfare.
2. Bring discredit to the purposes, values or principles of the NCAA.
3. Negatively impact the best interests of intercollegiate athletics or higher education.
There are specific examples, including alcohol or tobacco companies or casinos.
Companies that sell supplements banned by the NCAA such as creatine or amino acids aren’t allowed.
R-rated movies are okay as sponsors, but NC-17 ones aren’t.
The NCAA Also Says When Bowls Can Be Played
The NCAA lays out the dates when a bowl game can be held (December 15 – January 7 this year). This is based on when most schools are done with final exams for fall semester, and when spring semesters typically start.
And once a bowl sets its time and date, it can’t change it without getting NCAA approval.