The bowl swag has gotten a lot better.
Yes, players still get a watch and a ring for participating in a bowl, but Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo has managed to outfit a personal entertainment system, including a home theater recliner.
"I have the chair from last year, a Bluetooth surround sound system and a little Bluetooth speaker," said the redshirt junior, who has played in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl and a national championship game also in Pasadena. He is looking to add to his collection at the Peach Bowl when the Seminoles face Houston on Dec. 31.
Each Peach Bowl participant will receive a $300 Visa gift card in the game sponsored by Chick-fil-A.
The home theater recliner — which featured two USB outlets for charging mobile devices and a cup holder — was very popular last season. More than 1,000 players, coaches and staff members opted for the recliners, according to the Performance Award Center, which does the gift suites for the bowl games.
This season's swag includes a four-person Coleman tent, custom-made binoculars, stereo headphones, blenders, pots and pans, and the always useful gift cards — like the $450 shopping spree at a Belk department store for the Belk Bowl participants.
Wait, there's more.
While NCAA rules cap what bowl organizers can spend on each of a school's 125 bowl participants at $550, schools can spend up to $400 and conferences can allot $400 for postseason rewards — another $800 per participant. Often those are used on rings but Mack Brown, the former Texas coach and current ABC/ESPN college football analyst, said many times the equipment and strength coaches would get with the seniors and choose the best gifts and spread them out during preparations "so they don't get them all at once."
Brown said, "It is one of the real joys of bowl seasons to watch the kids smile."
Temple quarterback P.J. Walker had a smile on his face after picking up some stereo speakers before the Boca Raton Bowl.
"I'm going to make sure during the summer I'll take it home to my mother and let her use it," Walker said. "But once I get back to school I'm bringing them back with me."
Of the 41 bowls, 25 have gift suites, like the one where Walker snared his headphones. Jon Cooperstein, director of the sports marketing division for PAC, said bowls have been doing gift suites for 11 years because games were essentially giving the same gifts.
Cooperstein said underclassmen have a tendency to go for the big-ticket items — like the high-tech recliner or a television — while upperclassmen go for items on smaller tiers so that they can do a little holiday shopping for family.
"There was a case where I had a student-athlete ask me if he could get more than one item and ended up getting seven blenders so that he could give them away to family as Christmas gifts," Cooperstein said. "There are several kids on the phone with their moms asking them what they would like."
And to top it off, gift suite items are not subject to taxes because players select their gifts on a tier level instead of a cash value being attached, according to the NCAA.
The gifts at the College Football Playoff semifinals remain somewhat under wrap.
While the Orange Bowl will have a gift suite along with a Tourneau watch and a split helmet (half one-team and half the other), the Cotton Bowl does not announce its gifts before the teams arrive. However, last season's Cotton Bowl gifts included Beats wireless headphones and two years ago it was an Apple TV and iPad mini.
Organizers for the CFP national championship game said their gifts will be "iconic," but did not provide any details.
The gifts are sure to be nice, but it'll be hard to make them more unique than what the Idaho Potato Bowl organizers doled out.
The Akron and Utah State contingents received a four-person Coleman tent. Idaho Potato Bowl Events Coordinator Lindsay Roberts said a coat is typically the gift they give because Boise is a cold-weather location, but they wanted to mix things up and go with the tent for the first time because it is very fitting of the state.
The gift went over well with some of the Utah State players. Junior wide receiver Andrew Rodriguez said he is not a huge outdoors guy but that it should come in handy when he returns home to Texas during the summer.
"I'm sure there were a lot of people on the team that maybe didn't like it because they don't get outdoors, but for me it was perfect," said Utah State junior linebacker Nick Vigil. "I go camping a lot during the spring and summer, so I enjoyed it."
The tent would go perfectly with any of the gifts Kanas State and Arkansas will get from the Jan. 2 Liberty Bowl. Perks from that game feature a shopping spree at the new Bass Pro Shops in The Pyramid, along with custom-made Oculus Pro Team HD binoculars.
The inaugural Arizona Bowl, featuring a Nevada-Colorado State matchup next Tuesday, is giving away a pair of Cowtown custom cowboy boots as its main gift. Each team will have independent fittings at their hotel on Sunday. The Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, where Central Michigan meets Minnesota on Monday, will give each player a life-size decal with their likeness.
It all adds up to a tax-free, happy holiday season for bowl participants.
AP freelance writers Andy Kent in Boca Raton, Florida, and Jason Chatraw in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.