Conference tournaments banish gifts

If you're a conference commissioner or athletic director, this is a great idea. If you're a college basketball player whose one chance of snagging thousands of dollars worth of stuff you're actually allowed to accept at your league's conference tournament -- you know, headphones, iPods, fresh tracksuits, goodie bags full of free awesomeness -- this is the worst news you've heard all week.

In the hopes of cutting costs, some conferences are doing away with gift packages for college basketball teams that make the conference and NCAA tournaments, according to the Sports Business Journal. The Pac-10, Big Ten, and MAC have all decided to save the money -- as much as $3,000 per athlete in the NCAA tournament -- as part of what Pac-10 assistant commissioner Dave Hirsch called a "cost-containment plan." In layman's terms: We have no money, so athletes are going to stop getting cool stuff. Sorry, guys.

Then again, this "cost-containment" will do away with gifts for VIPs, too. Media long ago stopped receiving cool swag. (Not that they were ever supposed to accept it in the first place.) And this is no small amount of money. From the SBJ:

By eliminating the distribution of these packages for all sports this school year, the MAC expects to save $40,000. The Pac-10 and Big Ten figure to cut at least $300,000 from their annual expenses. Men’s and women’s basketball tournament gift packages typically make up about 75 percent of the major conferences’ annual gift budgets.

Tough break for the kids -- who doesn't want a new pair of Beatz By Dre with a Big Ten sticker on the side, right? Racking up cool junk has to be one of the five or six best things about being a college athlete at the NCAA tournament or a bowl game. But it's hard to argue with that kind of budgetary savings. Conferences are spending way too much money on this stuff.