According to figure 16-1 of the NCAA Division I manual, the players are allowed to receive post-season gifts from the bowls up to $500 and gifts up to $350 from the institution. Note, those are maximum restrictions in addition to travel allowance. The Cotton Bowl has a payout of $3 million, a major portion of which goes into the Southeastern Conference coffers, which has routinely paid out over $100 million to member schools in recent years.
The AT&T Cotton Bowl has a well-earned reputation for being a first-class operation when it comes to treatment of the teams, players and the media, and the word around the Alabama camp is that an iPod is on there list from the Cotton Bowl.
"I heard we're getting and iPod," senior Mark Anderson said. "If we get that it's going to top all the gifts because I need one of them. I need some more music."
Anderson remembered an Independence Bowl jacket he got in 2001. "I remember wearing it when I went home the first time I came home since I was in college," he said. "The Music City Bowl we got dvd players and stuff. That was pretty good. I don't know what we're getting this year but I'm pretty sure it's going to be better."
It's hard to shop for a football team, though. Brodie Croyle remembered the independence bowl jacket as "Ugly. Your dad wouldn't even wear them, that's how bad they were." Croyle and many other players had also heard about the iPod.
Senior Freddie Roach – and those on his gift-giving list – are hoping for something they can enjoy. "What did I get…? I don't know," Roach said about his first bowl trip. "The only thing I like about the bowl gifts is it's less money you have to spend on your family for gifts. That's what they get… Last year I think we got a DVD player – gave it away. A couple of jump suits and stuff – gave those away."
While this year's Cotton Bowl is the biggest yet for current members of the Alabama football team, junior quarterback Marc Guillon was a member of a Miami team that played in the Fiesta Bowl. "We got an X-Box, games for the X-Box. We got shoes, watches, video cameras, bags - a bunch of clothes," he said. "They did pretty good."
As a partial qualifier, senior cornerback Anthony Madison was part of the team but wasn't able to go to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport in 2001. "They got all kind of stuff. I couldn't get nothing," he said. "Last year we had real good stuff. They took care of us. This bowl is supposed to be good."
Madison said the gifts are well deserved.
"People have their own opinions about athletes and what we deserve and what we don't deserve," Madison said. "[People] that come around here and see what we do every day understand. You've got to see it to believe it."
And Head Coach Mike Shula agreed.
"We want to reward them in any way we can, within the rules of course," he said.
Shula did not remember any gifts that were given to him as a player, but he made out well on a shopping trip at the Sun Bowl. "The only ones I can remember I had, we bought some boots in El Paso," he said. "Some ostrich skin and some eel skin. I've still got those."