By Dave Glenn and Staff
January 10, 2006
ACC football players had a lot of fun over the holidays. Those from the conference's eight bowl teams visited some exciting cities (Miami, Atlanta, Nashville, San Francisco), stayed in beautiful hotels, feasted on never-ending buffets, received mostly royal treatment from game officials, and supplemented the league's BCS-best all-time bowl record by winning five of their eight games on the field.
Oh, and by the way, when you add up all of the cash and gifts they received along the way, ACC football players also made more than $1 million. More good news: It was all legit.
This wasn't under-the-table stuff coming from agents' runners in the lobbies of team hotels. (No estimates were available on that.) The steady flow of cash and gifts came instead from the bowls and the schools themselves. This was completely above-the-board stuff, sanctioned by the NCAA, even if it did sometimes involve some manipulation of the system.
Still stinging from those embarrassing postseason performances by Miami and Georgia Tech, losers by margins of 40-3 and 38-10, respectively? Still more good news: Despite showing up only in the bodily sense, with the possible exception of UM's post-game tunnel brawl, the Hurricanes and the Yellow Jackets don't have to give anything back.
Still upset about Virginia Tech's showing in the Gator Bowl, which included the ejection of All-American cornerback Jimmy Williams (pushing an official), contributed to the dismissal of All-ACC quarterback Marcus Vick (stomping on an opposing player and continuing a pattern of selfishness, immaturity and stupidity), and involved team-wide behavior by the Hokies that the game's referee called the worst he'd seen in 22 years of officiating?
Still angry over the offensive treatment of Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, an All-American and famous grandson of beloved (assassinated by Idi Amin) former Uganda prime minister Benedicto Kiwanuka, whose last name was used as a punchline by MPC Computers chief executive officer Mike Adkins at a pre-game banquet?
No postseason pouting for you.
In an attempt to carry forward the spirit of the holidays, here's one of the under-reported feel-good stories of the postseason, at least in the eyes of anyone who believes that the bowl participants truly deserve some small slice of the postseason pie.
Get out your calculators -- or your cell phones, or whatever you use for basic math these days -- and follow along on the ACC football players' recent "road to riches," or path out of poverty, as the case may be:
(1) Bowl Gifts: Under NCAA rules, bowls are permitted to give up to $500 in various loot to up to 125 members (mostly players) on the participating teams. That's a revised number, up from $350 per player in 2004.
"We try to keep in touch with what the players want, and I know other bowls do, too. If you're going to spend that much money, you certainly want to spend it on things people really want," MPC Computers Bowl executive director Gary Beck said. "For a long time, everybody got rings. This year the theme seemed to be electronics."
At the Orange Bowl in Miami, every Florida State and Penn State player received a complete multi-media package, including video games (Madden NFL 2006, NBA Live 2006), a "Friday Night Lights" DVD, a one-year subscription to ESPN The Magazine and a Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP), along with an Ogio duffel bag, a commemorative hat and a team plaque.
The PSPs, valued at approximately $250, were among the most popular items of the 2005 bowl season. They were included in packages at the Fiesta, Insight, Rose and Sun bowls, in addition to the Orange Bowl.
At the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, every Virginia Tech and Louisville player received a bowl ring, a watch, a duffel bag and a baseball hat. This year's smaller package came about because bowl officials already had budgeted only $300 per player by the time the NCAA changed the rules to permit the $500 value.
At the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, every Miami and Louisiana State player received an Xbox (with four games), a bowl-themed Russell windshirt, a "Wild at Heart" book (written by John Etheridge), a commemorative football and a commemorative watch.
At the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, every Clemson and Colorado player received a Sony camcorder, a Medallion quartz watch, a beach towel, a baseball cap and a welcome package that included food, Chapstick and suntan lotion.
At the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, every N.C. State and South Florida player received a portable DVD player (eight-inch screen), an Armor Gear embroidered and rolling duffel bag, a special-edition Fossil watch, a football inscribed with his name and school logo, a Lowe's Motor Speedway baseball cap and a money clip.
At the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., every Virginia and Minnesota player received a portable DVD player, a Swiss Army watch, a bowl-themed sweatshirt, an Armor Gear duffel bag and a personalized commemorative football.
At the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, every Georgia Tech and Utah player received a portable DVD player, a Fossil watch, an Armor Gear backpack, a commemorative football, a baseball cap, a fleece vest, candy and some Emerald nuts.
At the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho, every Boston College and Boise State player received a digital video recorder that also can take still photos and serve as an mp3 player and a voice recorder. They also received bowl-themed parkas and backpacks, skull caps, baseball caps, gloves, commemorative footballs, CD carrier cases and keychains.
Subtotal: $300-$500 per player.
(2) School Gifts: The participating schools in bowl games are permitted to give up to $350 in various items to their players.
At the MPC Computers Bowl, Boise State gave each of its athletes (in addition to smaller items) an iPod nano, and Boston College gave its players 27-inch televisions.
"We let the captains make the decision (on this year's gift) for everyone," BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo said. "We limited the options to the value permitted by the NCAA, then we let the captains make the final decision. If you're going to spend the money, you certainly want to come up with something they want."
Georgia Tech gave its players PlayStation Portable units, warm-ups and baseball-style jacket shells. Virginia Tech gave its players Nike sweatsuits, Nike duffel bags, Nike pullover shirts, bowl plaques and the choice of an iPod nano or a Sony PSP.
Missouri, which participated in the Independence Bowl against South Carolina in Shreveport, La., gave its players commemorative rings valued at $130. To finish exactly at the $350 limit, the Tigers also handed out $220 gift cards from Circuit City.
Subtotal: $300-$350 per player.
(3) Travel Costs: Under NCAA rules, the participating schools can compensate any of their players who make their own way to the game with either the cost of a round-trip plane ticket (coach class) from campus or their hometowns or with the total mileage of the trip (both directions) itself, whichever is greater.
That turns into a wonderful -- and completely within the rules -- money-making opportunity for the players, who typically forgo the school's plane, pocket the money, then carpool with teammates to minimize their actual expenses. For longer trips, where the thought of driving may be unpleasant (think Georgia Tech and Boston College this year), the athletes still often can take the (higher) school-approved amount of a round-trip plane ticket, then shop around on their own and take significantly less expensive flights.
At Virginia Tech this year, all but three of the 113 players on the Hokies' Gator Bowl roster made their own way to Jacksonville. At 34.5 cents per mile (the allowable rate) for a roundtrip of more than 1,200 miles, that's more than $400 per player. In this case, however, the roundtrip airfare prices often were even more expensive, so most players received more than $500.
Subtotal: $200-$600 per player, after expenses. This is one area that varies significantly because of the unique circumstances of individual bowls, schools, athletes, local airports and travel distances.
(4) Workout Gear: The participating schools are permitted to provide their players with a "workout package" of athletic gear. This does not count against the above-mentioned $350 limit.
Georgia Tech issued a workout package in December that included athletic shoes, sweats, shorts and T-shirts.
Subtotal: roughly $200 (mostly the shoes).
(5) Meal Money: The participating schools are permitted to pay for any meals that aren't already provided by the school or the bowl.
Clemson's players received $226 each to cover 21 meals: eight from Dec. 17-20 after the university closed for the holiday break, and 13 during the Tigers' trip to Orlando. The bowl hosted a number of events, so the players received cash for only those meals that weren't on the schedule -- $16 for dinners, $10 for lunches, and $6 for breakfasts.
Subtotal: $150-$250, but minimal after expenses.
(6) Per Diems: The participating schools are permitted to pay daily cash allowances of $20 for incidental expenses.
Subtotal: $100-$150, but minimal after expenses.
Grand Total: roughly $1,000-$2,000 per player in cash/gifts.
Likely Profit: $750-$1,500 per player, depending on the school/bowl and the unique travel circumstances of each player.
Crunch the numbers further. Eight ACC teams played in bowl games, and each school was eligible to receive goodies for a travel party (mostly players) of up to 125 people. That's an even 1,000 sets of holiday-style bonuses. At $1,500 per person, that's $1.5 million.
Think that's big money? Consider this: After the 2004-05 season alone, the bowl games combined to gross about $253 million, and the participating universities made about $128 million.
Given those numbers, most agree that it's not a bad idea to save a few crumbs for the guys who actually played the games.
And for anyone who may be wondering about the players on teams that didn't appear in bowl games this season, have no fear: Under NCAA rules, those schools were permitted to give each senior gifts worth $325 and each underclassman gifts worth $175.
A Happy New Year, indeed.
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