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Thursday, December 20, 2007
Updated: December 31, 12:59 PM ET
Nintendo Wiis, tech gifts top 2007's best bowl prizes

By Heather Dinich
ESPN.com

They shopped. They splurged. The annual quest by bowl officials to show-up one another and in some cases, raise the profile of their games with the hottest, latest tech toys for each player has been all wrapped up.

These aren't stocking stuffers, folks.

Nintendo Wii
The Nintendo Wii is the hot gift this bowl season.

"Ours kick butt," Mark Neville, a spokesman for the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia and Pacific Life Holiday bowls, said with a laugh, reveling in the fact the Holiday Bowl was one of three able to track down the coveted Nintendo Wii with two remote controls ($345).

But nobody else is getting the iPod Touch, pointed out Mark Wallington, of the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl. According to him, "it's the coolest thing in America."

Unless you're one of the four teams playing in Orlando.

Florida, Michigan, Boston College and Michigan State get to pick whatever the heck they want in a Best Buy shopping spree arranged by Florida Citrus Sports, which hosts the Champs Sports and Capital One bowls.

You can't put a price tag on the national title, though, and in addition to their shot at one, LSU and Ohio State will also receive a Nintendo Wii package, complete with four games.

Although not everyone was lucky enough to get the Wii, there are enough other gadgets and gizmos going around to re-stock the Best Buy Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow gets to raid.

In case anyone from UConn or Wake Forest gets lost while driving 140 mph in circles at the Lowe's Motor Speedway, the Meineke Car Care Bowl is providing them with a Garmin navigation system.

Hungry? The Insight Bowl has a Frito Lay Snack Pack waiting -- with an Xbox 360, of course.

Mum's the word at the AT&T Cotton Bowl headquarters, where president Rick Baker has a long-standing policy of keeping the gifts a secret until they're in the players' hands.

Bowls are allowed to spend $500 on each player (the NCAA increased it from $350 in 2005). There's usually one particularly pricey gizmo, complimented by a few more traditional (read you-can't-play-with-it-so-store-it-until-you-have-grandkids-to-show) gifts.

Here's a look at who else got the Wii, who got the boot (literally) and how the bowl competition fared off the field:

The Best Gift Ever: The Champs Sports Bowl and the Capital One Bowl are letting all four teams loose in Best Buy (not at the same time, of course) with a $400 gift certificate for each player to get whatever he wants. Won't fit on the plane home? Not a problem. They'll mail it. And Tebow, the Heisman Trophy winner, doesn't even have to worry about roaming the aisles while Florida fans gawk at him and mob him for autographs. The Gators and Michigan will be there before the store opens. Boston College and Michigan State will actually have to mingle with the customers one evening because of their practice schedules.

Top shelf: The Nintendo Wii. Only three bowls -- the Holiday, Allstate BCS National Championship and Valero Alamo -- were each able to snag about 250 of these. Unless you're camping out at Toys 'R' Us, waiting for the shipment to come in, good luck getting one of your own.

Most outrageous: Save a horse and ride these cowboys: The $300 custom-fitted Nocona boots provided by the Texas Bowl can be made with just about any kind of leather -- including ostrich, veal, alligator and whatever else the TCU and Houston players are hungry for on the Discovery Channel.

Best theme: Brrr in Boise. Georgia Tech and Fresno State's trip to the Humanitarian Bowl will include a 45-minute bus ride to Bogus Basin, a ski resort in the foothills of Boise, Idaho, where they'll go tubing. Part of their $500 gift package will include a parka, winter gloves and a skull cap. These guys might also get the award for the most practical gift -- a one-year subscription to XM Satellite Radio. (Who's complaining about the Smurf Turf now, hmm?)

All worn out: The hats. The sweatshirts. Everyone's doing it. Yawn. The Alamo Bowl will give the best keepsake with its panoramic team photo, and the Orange Bowl has the right idea with a panoramic photo of the stadium during the game.

People in Line
Regular folks have to wait in line to get the latest tech toys. Not so for many bowl participants.

Top entertainment: The Rose Bowl presented by Citi isn't messing around with its $300 Sony Bravia theatre system, which includes a digital media port, five-disc DVD/CD player and five speaker surround system with subwoofer for Illinois and USC. The PetroSun Independence Bowl is giving Alabama and Colorado the same. Oklahoma and West Virginia will receive Vizio 20-inch LCD HD TVs from the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Boor-ring: Say what?: The GMAC bowl is giving Bowling Green and Tulsa sets of Sony noise reduction headphones. At least they can tune out other players bragging about their Wii's. They also got luggage. So did Rutgers and Ball State, who are headed to Toronto for the International Bowl. No gizmos for these guys. Still, a watch, souvenir football, backpack and the luggage added up to $440. And yes, that's the same in Canadian dollars.

Players' choice: If the Fiesta Bowl gave West Virginia defensive end Johnny Dingle the $500 to buy whatever he wanted, Dingle said he'd get a pair of customized jeans by Evisu and the new iPhone.

"The rest I'd pocket for me and whoever to have a good time," he said.

What about the keepsakes, like the rings?

"It's something you cherish," he said, "put away in a safe. That's what I do. All my rings are in a safe."

Maybe he'll get more use out of this year's commemorative watch.

Don't leave home without it: The Sony Cybershot Digital Camera from the Outback Bowl. The iPod Nano Video, Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Most innovative: The Konica Minolta Gator Bowl got Virginia and Texas Tech the Oakley Thump, a pair of sunglasses that combines a music player and earphones right into the frame of the sunglasses. No more wires!

Most practical: The Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl kept with its obvious theme, but it's clear the trip to Honolulu is the best gift here for Boise State and East Carolina. (Not to knock a beach towel, backpack beach chair, and an Aloha shirt.) The priciest gifts are the Oakley Blade II Orbital Watch, the Oakley "Bruce Irons" Hijinx Sunglasses, and the Oakley O Pack 4.0 backpack. They also get luggage tags and a bowl calendar. (It's easy to forget where you are and what day it is out there.)

Set for summer two-a-days: The AutoZone Liberty Bowl is giving UCF and Mississippi State a plethora of Nike gear, including the Nike+ shoes, the Nike+ iPod kit (iPod chip for shoe), an Apple iPod, Nike back pack, Nike sunglasses and Nike sports sandals. Too bad UCF is an adidas-sponsored program.

The That's it? award: Ahh, Detroit in December. And no, they're not getting a shiny new Ford. These guys will leave Michigan with frostbite, a commemorative watch, a leather monogrammed travel bag and a commemorative football with both team's logos.

Heather Dinich is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Heather at espn.hd@hotmail.com.