CHARLOTTE, N.C.—The rules of college football are plain and simple. Under no circumstances are Division I athletes allowed to accept gifts—unless they are playing in a bowl game, that is.
Playing in the Belk Bowl provides Duke football players with a number of new experiences, which include additional practices at the end of the season and traveling to play a neutral site game. But none of these experiences are as unique as the gifts college athletes can legally receive from sponsors at bowl games.
Every bowl game has its own system when it comes to the gifts available to more than 200 athletes who participate in the contest. These gifts range from backpacks and clothes to gift cards and even iPads. The total value of the gifts typically comes out to around $550, the limit the NCAA sets for this special occasion.
Duke’s players at the 2012 Belk Bowl received a number of fabulous prizes, including a Fossil watch and a shopping spree at the flagship Belk store in Southpark, N.C. The shopping spree was estimated to be about $400, according to Sports Business Daily.
“It’s great being able to take all of these gifts and know that you won’t get banned for a year by the NCAA as a result. That’s amazing,” defensive end Kenny Anunike said.
Shopping for a Division I football player can often be an arduous process. There aren’t too many stores with sizes readily on hand to fit the frame of your average offensive lineman. But the shopping spree at Belk featured an expanded “Big & Tall” section—a football player’s delight.
Anunike took advantage of this, finding the perfect beige pair of Cole Haan shoes to fit his size 14 feet.
“I couldn’t believe they even had my size,” Anunike said. “I’m used to going to a shoe store asking for my size and they come back empty-handed.”
Other Blue Devil players used the shopping spree as an opportunity to do some last-minute Christmas shopping for their families and friends. Safety Walt Canty was one of the many Duke players who ventured over to the women’s department in an earnest attempt to pick out clothes for their mothers and sisters.
“I went shopping for heels for my sister so that was very interesting,” Canty said. “I’ve never done that before. I still don’t think I’ve got the hang of it, but it was different.”
Taking place just days before Christmas, the Belk Bowl shopping spree also gave Duke football players an opportunity to provide gifts for underprivileged children. Wide receiver Desmond Scott, a Durham native, chose to spend his shopping spree buying gifts for a friend and her young children who have been in a difficult financial situation.
“She’s living life the right way. She’s working hard, trying to please God, so on and so forth, so I just wanted to help her out with her kids,” Scott said. “I got them some coats, some shirts, some pants, just some simple things to help them out.”
Scott also revealed that not only is he using his own bowl gifts to give back to others, he is playing a “Secret Santa” of sorts.
“She still doesn’t know yet,” Scott said. “Once I get home I’ll ship it over to her house, and the day that I get the phone call from her, I will know how she feels.”
He is not the only player shopping for other families this holiday season. Kelby and Kyler Brown, linebackers and Charlotte natives, worked to set up a number of their teammates who wished to shop for families in need with lists of gifts that children have requested.
“Not too many teams in America would do that,” Scott said. “That just speaks to the type of guys that coach Cutcliffe recruits and what one person can do and inspire other teammates to do as well.”