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Volume 22 No. 7

Colleges

Since 2006, Sports Business Journal has tracked what gifts college football bowl committees have provided to the participants of their respective Football Bowl Subdivision games. Over the past few years, the majority of committees have opted to provide players with an opportunity to select items from a pop-up store, or gift suite, that is set up on campus or in the bowl’s host city prior to the game. The NCAA allows the committees to provide each participant with gifts totaling a combined maximum value of $550.

While electronics have become the most popular offerings, this year marks the first time a cornhole game has been part of a gift package (by the Cheez-It Bowl). Other gifts making their debut include a bobblehead designed to look like each player (Capital One Orange Bowl), cufflinks (Allstate Sugar Bowl) and a custom-made cowboy hat (DXL Frisco Bowl).

The Goodyear Cotton Bowl representatives would not disclose the contents of this year’s gift package. Organizers of this season’s national championship game also declined to provide details of their gifts. Players in last year’s title game, which featured Alabama and Georgia, each received a Diesel watch, a Jostens ring, a New Era cap, a watch and ring holder engraved with each player’s name and jersey number, a Wilson commemorative football and a national championship game coin.

Click on bowl logos for more detailed information courtesy of Resource Guide Live.

AutoNation Cure Bowl

Dec. 15, 1:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

Tulane vs. Louisiana

Orlando (Camping World Stadium)

■ Holloway Force jacket; sunglasses with carry case; Energizer powerbank; duffle bag; Pebble Beach slides; dopp kit; Sportek long-sleeve contender T-shirt; cap

 

 

New Mexico Bowl

Dec. 15, 2 p.m. (ESPN)

North Texas vs. Utah State

Albuquerque, N.M. (Branch Field at Dreamstyle Stadium)

■ Gift suite; Oakley Jupiter Squared sunglasses; Oakley 5 Speed backpack; Bluetooth speaker; water bottle; beanie; Montgomery pen; Pacific Headwear trucker’s cap

 

 

Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl

Dec. 15, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

Fresno State vs. Arizona State

Las Vegas (Sam Boyd Stadium)

■ Gift suite; collectible Las Vegas item TBD; dad hat; beanie; fanny pack

 

 

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Dec. 15, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Georgia Southern vs. Eastern Michigan

Montgomery, Ala. (Cramton Bowl)

■ Gift suite; Fossil watch; Samsonite rolling duffle bag; beanie; Big Game football

 

 

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Dec. 15, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Middle Tennessee vs. Appalachian State

New Orleans (Mercedes-Benz Superdome)

■ Gift suite; Fossil watch

 

 

Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl

Dec. 18, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

UAB vs. Northern Illinois

Boca Raton, Fla. (Howard Schnellenberger Field at FAU Stadium)

■ Gift suite; drawstring backpack; beach towel; football

 

 

DXL Frisco Bowl

Dec. 19, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

San Diego State vs. Ohio

Frisco, Texas (Toyota Stadium)

■ Gift suite; Justin cowboy hat; beanie cap; coin; pin; Big Game football

 

 

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

Dec. 20, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Marshall vs. South Florida

Tampa (Raymond James Stadium)

■ Gift suite

 

 

Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl

Dec. 21, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN)

FIU vs. Toledo

Nassau, Bahamas (Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium)

■ Gift suite; Yeti rambler; string backpack; board shorts; towel; pin

 

 

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Dec. 21, 4 p.m. (ESPN)

Western Michigan vs. BYU

Boise, Idaho (Lyle Smith Field at Albertsons Stadium)

■ Gift suite; Oakley backpack; hydroflask; beanie

 

 

 

Jared Birmingham Bowl

Dec. 22, noon (ESPN)

Memphis vs. Wake Forest

Birmingham, Ala. (Legion Field)

■ Gift suite; Oakley backpack or sunglasses; cooling hoodie; football

 

 

 

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Houston vs. Army

Fort Worth, Texas (Amon G. Carter Stadium)

■ Gift suite; Bluetooth speaker helmet; football

 

 

Dollar General Bowl

Dec. 22, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Buffalo vs. Troy

Mobile, Ala. (Ladd-Peebles Stadium)

■ Yamaha sound bar with built-in subwoofer; Timely Watch Co. watch; Maui Jim sunglasses; Wilson game ball

 

 

SoFi Hawai’i Bowl

Dec. 22, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Louisiana Tech vs. Hawaii

Honolulu (Aloha Stadium)

■ Electronics gift suite; Oakley backpack; Oakley sunglasses; Tori Richard aloha shirt; shorts/swim trunks; performance T-shirt; beach towel

 

Servpro First Responder Bowl

Dec. 26, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Boston College vs. Boise State

Dallas (Cotton Bowl Stadium at Fair Park)

■ Gift suite; RFID-blocking Ridge wallet; Big Game football

 

 

 

Quick Lane Bowl

Dec. 26, 5:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech

Detroit (Ford Field)

■ $175 Best Buy gift card; JBL E55BT over-ear wireless headphones; life-sized Fathead decal for each participant of his likeness; backpack; shirts; mini helmet; football

 

 

Cheez-It Bowl

Dec. 26, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

California vs. TCU

Phoenix (Chase Field)

■ Fossil watch with engraved caseback; JBL Charge 3 Bluetooth speaker; Baggo bag toss tailgate cornhole set; Yeti Roadie 20 cooler; Yeti rambler; dry duffel bag; RuMe reveal quart bag; Branded Bills cap; Dollar Shave Club starter set

 

 

Walk-On’s Independence Bowl

Dec. 27, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Temple vs. Duke

Shreveport, La. (Independence Stadium)

■ Gift suite; Timely Watch Co. watch; New Era skull cap; football

 

 

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Dec. 27, 5:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Miami vs. Wisconsin

New York (Yankee Stadium)

■ A variety of New Era products

 

 

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl

Dec. 27, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Baylor vs. Vanderbilt

Houston (NRG Stadium)

■ Gift suite; Academy Sports + Outdoors gift card; Adidas backpack; belt buckle

 

 

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Dec. 28, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Purdue vs. Auburn

Nashville (Nissan Stadium)

■ Gift suite; Fossil watch

 

 

 

 

Camping World Bowl

Dec. 28, 5:15 p.m. (ESPN)

West Virginia vs. Syracuse

Orlando (Camping World Stadium)

■ $400 Best Buy gift card; Ogio backpack with luggage tag; Fossil watch

 

 

Valero Alamo Bowl

Dec. 28, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Iowa State vs. Washington State

San Antonio (Alamodome)

■ $425 Amazon gift card; Fossil watch; mini helmet; team panoramic photo

 

 

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Dec. 29, noon (ESPN)

Florida vs. Michigan

Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

■ $300 Fancard gift card; Fossil watch; Mophie Powerstation XL; Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker (3rd generation); football

 

 

Belk Bowl

Dec. 29, noon (ABC)

South Carolina vs. Virginia

Charlotte (Bank of America Stadium)

■ Shopping trip to Belk department store; Fossil watch

 

 

 

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl

Dec. 29, 1:15 p.m. (CBSSN)

Arkansas State vs. Nevada

Tucson, Ariz. (Arizona Stadium)

■ Ghostek backpack with a power bank and external USB port; Beats Budst; Fire Kindle with built-in Alexa; hydroflask; cooling towel; Frito Lay products in each bag

 

 

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Dec. 29, 4 p.m. (ESPN)

Clemson vs. Notre Dame

Arlington, Texas (AT&T Stadium)

■ Would not disclose gifts

 

 

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl

Dec. 29, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Alabama vs. Oklahoma

Miami Gardens, Fla. (Hard Rock Stadium)

■ Gift suite; Tourneau watch; personalized bobblehead of each student-athlete; sling bag

 

 

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman

Dec. 31, noon (ESPN)

Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech

Annapolis, Md.

(Jack Stephens Field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium)

■ Dell Mobile Projector M318WL; $100 Amex Gift Card; ISlides

 

 

Hyundai Sun Bowl

Dec. 31, 2 p.m. (CBS)

Stanford vs. Pittsburgh

El Paso, Texas (Sun Bowl Stadium)

■ Gift suite; Timely Watch Co. watch; Majestic fleece pullover; Ogio Excelsior backpack; Under Armour cap; coin

 

 

Redbox Bowl

Dec. 31, 3 p.m. (Fox)

Michigan State vs. Oregon

Santa Clara, Calif. (Levi’s Stadium)

■ Fossil watch; Timbuktu backpack; Roku; headphones; Redbox Bowl merchandise

 

 

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Dec. 31, 3:45 p.m. (ESPN)

Missouri vs. Oklahoma State

Memphis (Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium)

■ Shopping trip to Memphis’ Bass Pro Shops; Bose SoundLink micro Bluetooth speaker; Bulova watch; Nike athletic shoes; sport sandals; backpack and sunglasses; football

 

 

 

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl

Dec. 31, 7 p.m. (FS1)

Northwestern vs. Utah

San Diego (SDCCU Stadium)

■ Gift suite; Fossil watch; New Era cap

 

 

 

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl

Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

NC State vs. Texas A&M

Jacksonville (TIAA Bank Field)

■ Fossil watch; Maui Jim sunglasses; Amazon Echo; ISlides; SIC tumbler; dopp kit

 

 

Outback Bowl

Jan. 1, noon (ESPN2)

Mississippi State vs. Iowa

Tampa (Raymond James Stadium)

■ Fossil watch; Jostens ring; $125 Best Buy gift card; Outback Steakhouse Gift card; hat

 

 

VRBO Citrus Bowl

Jan. 1, 1 p.m. (ABC)

Kentucky vs. Penn State

Orlando (Camping World Stadium)

■ $400 Best Buy gift card; Fossil watch; Ogio backpack with luggage tag

 

 

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl

Jan. 1, 1 p.m. (ESPN)

LSU vs. UCF

Glendale, Ariz. (State Farm Stadium) 

■ PS4 gift package; Fossil watch with engraved caseback; Ogio X-Fit backpack

 

 

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual

Jan. 1, 5 p.m. (ESPN)

Washington vs. Ohio State

Pasadena, Calif. (Rose Bowl)

■ Gift suite; Fossil watch; Ogio backpack; New Era 9Fifty adjustable hat

 

 

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m. (ESPN)

Texas vs. Georgia

New Orleans (Mercedes-Benz Superdome)

■ Gift suite; Fossil watch; New Era cap; Rock ’Em socks; cufflinks

 

 

College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T

Jan. 7, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Santa Clara, Calif. (Levi’s Stadium)

■ Would not disclose gifts

Back-to-back AAC champion Central Florida’s football success the last two seasons has made it an attractive target for both media rights deals and bigger conferences.
Photo: getty images

The American Athletic Conference’s schools are considering a long-term commitment that will keep the AAC intact and make its media package more attractive.

The conference is asking schools to sign a grant-of-rights agreement that theoretically would lock them into the conference for the duration of the next media rights deal.

The AAC’s current seven-year, $126 million package with ESPN expires in 2020. A new deal could be three to four times higher, but only if the top AAC schools commit to stay in the conference, sources said. 

By committing to stay in the AAC, those schools sacrifice the opportunity to jump to a more lucrative arrangement if a power five league like the Big 12 decides to expand. In return, those schools will get a bigger share of the conference’s revenue from its next media deal. The schools also get the stability that comes with a long-term commitment. 

It is not known which schools will commit to a grant-of-rights deal. Emerging football power Central Florida, winner of 25 straight games, is the highest-profile AAC school and the most likely target by another league. AAC administrators want to make sure it isn’t lured away by another conference, which could be a draw for UCF after missing out on the College Football Playoff during both of its undefeated seasons in the AAC. 

American Athletic Conference

Media partner

ESPN

Terms

7 years, $126 million through 2020

Members:

Central Florida

Cincinnati

UConn

East Carolina

Houston

Memphis

Navy*

South Florida

SMU

Temple

Tulane

Tulsa

Wichita State*

* Navy is football only, while Wichita State is all sports but football.

Memphis, Cincinnati, Houston and South Florida are the other candidates most likely to be targeted by the power five, according to several well-placed sources.

If conference brass is able to lock up those top schools, they would create a level of stability the five-year-old AAC has not had before. Conference backers believe this move could be pivotal in Commissioner Mike Aresco’s quest to make the AAC part of the autonomy conferences, or the power six as he calls it.

Part of the negotiations have explored the possibility of top AAC schools making more revenue than others, which is drastically different than the conference’s current deal in terms of revenue distribution. Currently, the conference splits revenue evenly among its members. It’s unclear how a new distribution system that pays more to certain schools would be received by the rest of the conference, but the presence of UCF is expected to lead to a bigger media rights deal for the conference.

Having certain schools receive more conference revenue than others would be a marked difference than virtually every other conference, which share revenue evenly.

For a media company like ESPN, getting higher-profile schools to commit long term takes a lot of the uncertainty out of its rights negotiations. ESPN does not want to commit to a media rights deal only to see other conferences pick off the best teams. UCF’s Florida location, thriving Orlando market and on-field success would make it a prime target if the Big 12, the smallest of the power five leagues with 10 schools, revisited expansion. The Big 12 looked into expansion two years ago before deciding to stand pat.

While a grant of rights would provide that certainty, one source suggested that it may not be ironclad, saying that the possibility exists that such an agreement could be struck down in the courts.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco indicates that the conference wants to stay with ESPN.
Photo: marc bryan-brown

Almost everyone in the business acknowledges that the AAC’s current deal, a seven-year agreement with ESPN that pays it an average of $18 million per year, is well below market value. This final year of the deal is worth about $23 million, or a little less than $2 million per school.

“Six years ago, we were in bankruptcy reorganization, with all the nonsense that went on with the realignment,” Aresco said at the Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York last week. “People gave us up for dead.”

The conference has had plenty of on-field success, highlighted by UCF’s undefeated run in football over the last two seasons. Seven teams will play postseason bowl games this season: Central Florida, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, South Florida, Temple and Tulane.

Aresco said that the conference was close to entering a negotiating window with ESPN, a partner that he clearly wants to keep.

“We understand the marketplace,” Aresco said. “We know what’s there. We know also that other networks are making bigger commitments to sports. We understand all that. But we think we’re in a good spot with a great partner. We’ll see what happens.” 

Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.

The Department of Justice’s review of the blockbuster Learfield-IMG College merger is entering its 14th month and the two companies still haven’t closed the deal.

Both privately held companies, which have been the subject of a merger review since late October 2017, are keeping quiet on the details. But what’s clear is that Learfield and IMG College continue to operate their collegiate multimedia rights businesses separately while the DOJ tries to determine if the union would create too much of a competitive advantage.

At 14 months, the DOJ review is substantially longer than the typical merger investigation. Since 2015, DOJ merger reviews have lasted nine months on average, and the assistant attorney general for antitrust, Makan Delrahim, has stressed the need to shorten the review process.

At stake is the $2 billion merger between the two dominant multimedia giants in the college space. Combined, Learfield and IMG College would be a massive force in the marketing of college sports by owning the multimedia rights to 210 schools, including most of the power five.

Speculation about what’s taking so long for the deal to close hovered over last week’s Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, where the college industry gathered for what’s become known as college week in New York.

Neither Learfield, IMG College nor the DOJ commented on the progress of the merger, but the DOJ’s antitrust investigation typically produces one of three outcomes. The DOJ can file a lawsuit to block the merger; it can approve the merger as is; or it can approve the merger with conditions, meaning the newly merged company might have to divest certain assets.

For Learfield and IMG College, that could mean selling off some college contracts to satisfy the DOJ. Or they could decide not to meet the conditions and pull out of the deal.

Rani Habash, an attorney at Washington, D.C.-based Dechert LLP whose focus is on antitrust cases and mergers, said any review that extends this long “clearly has some sort of issue.”

Most cases that go beyond a year often have extenuating circumstances or a foreign component, Habash said. Last year, the merger of Dow and DuPont, two global giants, was under investigation for 18 months before the DOJ approved it with conditions.

In the case of Learfield-IMG College, the DOJ spent considerable time learning the multimedia rights business, interviewing upward of 100 athletic directors and veteran marketers in the space.

“For it to take this long, Learfield and IMG College most likely are working on some kind of divestiture or they’re working out some kind of remedy,” said Habash, whose firm has represented the likes of CVS Health in its $69 billion merger with Aetna.

The DOJ is looking into whether the merger would limit competition for school rights. For example, when IMG acquired Ben Sutton’s ISP Sports in 2010, Sutton had to divest his interest in a licensing agency for the deal to be approved by the DOJ.

Sutton said at an SBJ Dealmakers conference last month that he’s surprised the DOJ investigation is taking so long.

“It does seem like a long, long time, but the fact that they haven’t rejected it means there must be some premise under which they might approve some part or all of it,” Sutton said. “My personal belief is they’ll probably make them divest of some stuff if they do approve it. … I don’t blame them for trying. If I were there, I’d have been trying to do the same thing.”