MAACO rates as having best bowl swag

Bowl season officially is under way, and if you’re a participating player, that means only one thing – swag!

The time-honored tradition of gifting goes on at all 35 games. The NCAA sets a ceiling of $550, which means no one from Alabama gets a car, though Auburn fans will tell you that gift long since had been given to Nick Saban’s guys.

The Los Angeles Times rated the swag from best to worst, and coming in at No. 1 was, get this, Saturday’s MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. The Boise State and Washington players didn’t get some cheesy watch or sunglasses. They got to go into a “gift suite” on campus and pick out what they wanted. And, no, the tattoo parlor in the Hard Rock Hotel wasn’t offering a gift card as an option.

But players could choose from a 24-inch flat-screen television, an iPod Touch, a Blu-ray player, Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, a wireless gaming chair, Nintendo Wii, luggage and an oversized recliner. In all, 43 items were offered, and players could pick one big-ticket item or several smaller-priced gifts to get them to the $550 limit.

Of the 35 bowl games, 16 offer a gift room. At last year’s Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., a player was seen carting out a food processor and a pair of pink slippers. They were to be Christmas gifts for his mother.

The most ironic gift? A Helen of Troy hair dryer, which each member of Southern California’s squad gets for playing in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 31. Trojans? Troy? Get it?

So if the MAACO Bowl has the best swag, who is the chintziest? According to the Times, the Pinstripe Bowl ranked dead last. But only because it wouldn’t come clean with what it offered Syracuse and West Virginia for their Dec. 29 meeting at Yankee Stadium.

Maybe the players will be getting an Alex Rodriguez autographed bat, which qualifies for being under the NCAA’s $550 limit. A Derek Jeter signed bat? That’s something the NCAA might investigate.

■ TEBOW OUTPERFORMS SANCHEZ – Tim Tebow played one full series for the Jets in their loss Monday to Tennessee and was 0-for-1 passing yet somehow had a higher quarterback rating than Mark Sanchez, the guy he replaced.

According to the official final statistics, Tebow’s passer rating was 39.6, even though he didn’t complete a pass, while Sanchez’s rating was 32.6. Sanchez threw four interceptions and was sacked three times in New York’s 14-10 loss.

That, in a nutshell, tells you all you need to know how dismal the Jets are.

■ OUTDOORS INDOORS – Leave it to the Wranglers to save the day for hockey fans. With the NHL having canceled its Winter Classic game, the Wranglers’ New Year’s Day game at Orleans Arena against Ontario will be played “outdoors.”

Most of the arena’s doors will be left open, and artificial snow will drop from the ceiling.

Too bad the game wasn’t played Wednesday morning. The temperature with the wind chill was a pond hockey-pleasant 29 degrees.


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