ORLANDO, Fla. — College football coaches have racked up nearly $10 million in bonuses this year.
Penn State’s James Franklin got $200,000 when his team reached six wins and bowl eligibility. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz is one of at least nine coaches to get $100,000 for six wins, and he got $500,000 for the Hawkeyes winning an eighth game.
The players on teams in bowl games get something, too. Namely, gifts totaling a maximum value of $550. Some of the stuff is nice, some of it is stuff you might not miss if you forgot to drag it back home.
At least the players of Camping World Bowl teams Iowa State and Notre Dame got to choose most of what they wanted. They got a watch and a backpack, but the big-ticket item was a $400 gift card at Best Buy, which many used Thursday when buses brought them to one of the store’s locations in Orlando.
Michelle Martinelli of USA TODAY ranked all the bowls’ gift packages, and deemed the Citrus Bowl/Camping World Bowl duo of Orlando’s as the best. Better to pick the items you want rather than, say, be saddled with a cowboy hat like players got at the Frisco and Texas bowls.
As Iowa State’s fight song blared in the store, the Cyclones streamed in and wasted little time assessing the merchandise. Immediately, one spotted a PlayStation 4 Pro that happened to be priced at $399.99.
“That’s gonna be the whole jump,” a teammate told him, and they opted to consider other options with their $400 cards.
A couple players enjoyed experimenting with a Nikon D750 camera, selling for $1,699.99.
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“Did you see the jawline?” said a player, marveling at either the camera or his own photography skills after he took a picture of a teammate. “That’s precise.”
Apple watches, HomePods, wireless charging pads — all went back to the team’s hotel with the players. Nikon D750s did not.
I didn’t see what star ISU tight end Charlie Kolar chose. Before he got to the store he said “My phone works. I’m not sure what else I need.”
Maybe he should have been given a gift card to the Barnes & Noble bookstore next door to the Best Buy.
Fellow tight end Dylan Soehner wheeled around the store with his left knee on a seat of a scooter. He had a season-ending leg injury in the Cyclones’ regular-season finale at Kansas State. He was a reminder that these players earn what they get.
Some of the things the players got from the store were more for practical purposes than entertainment value. One selected a Hyperice Hypervolt Vibration Massage Device. Another chose a Dyson Pure Hot+Cool purifying heater and fan.
The Cyclones came to Best Buy directly from Andretti Indoor Karting & Games, where the bowl had a function with both teams and some kids in the community. A Cyclone, a Fighting Irish player and a kid were put together in threesomes and sent off to play arcade games, do some bowling, shoot bad guys in virtual reality simulators, all kinds of stuff that freed their minds from football for a little bit. Practice was to come a few hours later.
There was also karting, the safe kind. Although, everyone who participated did have to wear helmets and head socks, and sign a waiver.
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“With my weight capacity,” ISU starting offensive tackle Bryce Meeker of Cedar Rapids said, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to turn.”
He was fine. It wasn’t as if any players were breaking speed records.
“This is the most-important thing of the week,” Kolar said, tongue-in-cheek before going off to kart. “We’ve got to make sure we’re locked in and ready to go.”
The head coaches of the teams weren’t at either site. Presumably, they were back at their hotels working on football stuff. Which is why, one guesses, they get the big money.
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