Turn my swag on (at the Holiday Bowl)

A Best Buy gift card, Tourneau watch, hooded sweatshirt and FlexFit cap — the Holiday Bowl’s Christmas gift to the Cal football team. Before stepping on the field, the players will already win small, expensive victories.

Watches and shopping sprees are the among the most common products pushed in the bowl gifting extravaganza. Why the generosity? Case study: Oakley, which has supplied bowls for 21 years, claims steady growth in its overall college business over the past five years.

The Bears face off against No. 24 Texas on Dec. 28 in San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, a venue that also hosts the lesser Poinsettia Bowl. The bowl system, bloated to 35 games, has proliferated primarily because it makes money for organizers (and not necessarily schools). This reality is evidenced by the bowls’ very names: Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl, GoDaddy.com Bowl. That companies disperse expensive goods is another attempt to create cash flow.

A Rolex, likely beyond the bowl gift budget limit.

The NCAA allows bowls to make it rain (up to $550) on 125 players per school — a very pleasant bonus for gaggles of teens and young adults. From the SportsBusiness Journal:

Schools can, and almost always do, purchase additional packages that they can distribute to participants beyond that 125 limit. In addition, participants can receive awards worth up to $400 from the school and up to $400 from the conference for postseason play, covering both conference title games and any bowl game. Each limit represents an increase of $50 over last year.

The SBJ also lists what every bowl is doling out this year. Here’s what the rest of Pac-12 gets:

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio (No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 10 Wisconsin)

Gift suite*, Fossil watch, New Era hat, Oakley Flak Pack 3.0

*Gift suites are basically fun-filled rooms where players use a checklist to pick what they want. The Rose Bowl gift suite includes a choice of a 26-inch HDTV or an eight-inch tablet.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State)

Gift suite, Kenneth Cole watch, cap, Ogio Convoy backpack

Valero Alamo Bowl (Washington vs. No. 12 Baylor)

$400 Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, Schutt mini-helmet, panoramic team photo

Hyundai Sun Bowl (Utah vs. Georgia Tech)

Gift suite, Timely Watch Co. watch, Majestic Pro-Base fleece pullover, VP Sports cap, Ogio Politan backpack, Helen of Troy hair dryer, souvenir coin

Maaco Las Vegas Bowl (Arizona State vs. No. 7 Boise State)

Gift suite, cap

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (UCLA vs. Illinois)

Soundmatters Personal Audiophile loudspeaker, Fossil watch, cap, Timbuk2 custom messenger bag

Image source: s.yume under Creative Commons

Correction(s):
An earlier version of this article stated that the bowl system consisted of 35 teams. The bowl system has 35 games.