Dec. 21, 2011
For the Insight Bowl-bound University of Iowa football team, Thursday, Dec. 15, was gift selection day in the player's auditorium of the Hayden Fry Football Complex. And the Hawkeyes were kids in a toy store.
Bowl-bound student-athletes are permitted by NCAA rules to receive gifts from the respective bowl for participating in the postseason, as long as the value does not exceed $550. Iowa is one of just 16 teams nationally that qualified for an "ultimate shopping experience" through Performance Award Company, Inc. It includes the same gifts offered to players on teams in the national championship game and all the Bowl Championship Series games.
There are 39 gifts available with each one assigned a point value ranging from 1-7. Players are allowed to select a gift or gifts that equal seven points; the list includes everything from a shower radio (one point) to Dr. Dre Monster headphones (four points) to a 16 megapixel Sony Cybershot digital camera with 3D (seven points).
"I'm on the edge with this chair," said senior offensive lineman Woody Orne. "I like the TV, too. If I could get the TV and the chair, that would be the perfect combination, but they won't let that happen."
To the victor goes the spoils, and the Hawkeyes have been perennial recipients of the postseason bounty. This is the 10th bowl trip for the UI in Kirk Ferentz's 13 seasons as head coach. The Hawkeyes are searching for their fourth consecutive bowl victory -- an unprecedented feat in the storied history of UI football.
As a freshman, wide receiver Keenan Davis chose an iPod disc player that he gave to his family. As a sophomore he selected a surround sound package that he donated to his father. This year, Davis is taking care of himself.
"I got the 32 gigabyte iPod because I lost mine, so it was a pretty easy decision," Davis said. "I saw it up there and I said, `You know what? I lost mine, why don't I just get another one?' It's always a privilege if you make it to a bowl, and this is one of the things you get for all your hard work. It's a nice treat."
For Binns and Staggs, this is their fourth bowl trip...and fourth trip through the gift selection process.
"I'm pretty high-tech, so usually I go with either the surround sound, iPod or video system or something like that," said Binns, a second team All-Big Ten defensive lineman. "I'm going with the surround sound again this year. I might do the deluxe double shootout (basketball game) so my brother (freshman running back Marcus) and I have a little competition while I'm still here."
It was a difficult choice for Staggs, who was torn between several items, including the Nintendo Wii and the Harvard Double Shot Basketball game. In the end, he took the Microsoft Xbox 360 with two games and a wireless controller.
"You have a lot of nice selections and it's nice to have this opportunity for getting to a bowl game," Staggs said. "We've been fortunate."
Iowa flies to Arizona on Thursday, Dec. 22, and the Hawkeyes typically practice on Christmas Day, although that is a scheduled off-day this year. So on Dec. 15, they began stuffing their own stockings a few days earlier than most.
"We'll be down there practicing on Christmas Day, so this adds a little bit," Orne said. "It's something extra and it's fun."
"We don't get to have Christmas for our families, so it's a gift to come in here and pick out stuff," Hyde said.
Iowa (7-5 overall, 4-4 Big Ten Conference) plays No. 19 Oklahoma (9-3, 6-3 Big 12) on Friday, Dec. 30, with a 9:05 p.m. (CT) kickoff from Sun Devil Stadium. The Hawkeyes are the defending Insight Bowl champions after defeating No. 12 Missouri, 27-24, last season.