PlayStations, Blu-ray players, Oakleys … and hair dryers

There are gadgets and gizmos, Crocs and caps, headphones and … hair dryers?

"Wait," Trent Hilburn, a spokesman for the Brut Sun Bowl, hastily interjected. "Let me explain."

Explaining is something Hilburn did 11 times so far this week (not that he's counting) when asked why, exactly, the Brut Sun Bowl gives dozens of burly football players hair dryers as part of their gift package.

For the past 25 years, Helen of Troy, which owns Brut and is the largest maker of hair dryers in the United States, has been supplying hair dryers as one of the bowl gifts. They are produced in El Paso, Texas, and are part of the local … shall we say … style.

And it's a fad that never changes at the Sun Bowl.

"It's just part of coming to the Sun Bowl," Hilburn said. "You're gonna get a hair dryer."

And like almost every other bowl-bound team, Pittsburgh and Oregon State will get some of the latest technology. They'll get the same Sony DVD camcorder the Rose Bowl is giving out.

There's no economic bailout plan needed at the NCAA, where the $500-per-player allotment for bowl gifts remained the status quo this season.

The trendy thing to do this season, though, is let the players choose for themselves. The Chick-fil-A Bowl, Texas Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl and Capital One Bowl are all giving the players at least $300 worth of spending money.

"Gift cards are so 2007," joked Rick Hill of the Alamo Bowl. "Yawn."

Here are the best and worst gifts of 2008:

SWEETEST RIDE: The Independence Bowl already shipped Trek mountain bikes to the players at Louisiana Tech and Northern Illinois. It's quite fitting considering the uphill climb first-year coach Jerry Kill had after NIU won just two games in 2007.

PICK SIX: The BCS National Championship and Orange Bowl have reserved a suite in each of the team hotels, and the players will be invited in to browse the tables lined with high-tech presents and put their names on an order form for whatever they want. There is a point system. Each player has six points to spend, and the gifts cost different amounts of points. The pricey six-pointers include a digital camera, a DVD handycam, a navigation system, floor-standing speakers and a wireless digital music streamer. If the players decide to go for just one point, you can get a two-gig memory stick, a CD clock radio, DVD player or noise-canceling head phones. For some bowls (Music City, Papajohns.com and Emerald), the noise-canceling headphones are the top prize. But hey, in San Francisco, Emerald Bowl spokesman Doug Kelly points out you also get "all the Emerald Nuts anyone could ever eat."

BEST STOCK-ING STUFFER: Oh sure, the Meineke Car Care Bowl has the nifty little Flip Mino, but the real gem in this gift package is the memorable photo every player gets at Lowe's Motor Speedway. West Virginia and North Carolina players will get the Richard Petty Driving Experience and go three laps at 160 mph in a stock car. They get pictures of themselves in the car.

BEST THING-A-MA-GIG: The Alamo Bowl's 80-gig Sony PS3. For the low, low price of $400, this thing should win the game for you.

CUTTING EDGE: This looks like something straight out of Star Trek. Colt McCoy and Terrelle Pryor can go incognito with the Fiesta Bowl's Myvu Personal Media Viewer. Yeah, go ahead and Google that one.

KEEP IT CLEAN, PLEASE: Maryland and Nevada players might be cold in Boise, but darned if they won't be well-groomed. The Humanitarian Bowl is giving out manicure sets and toiletry bags. And you thought the hair dryer was bad.

SNOOZER: The Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl is giving Boston College and Vanderbilt noise-canceling headphones, something they aren't likely to need for the crowd in this stadium. Heck, the Boston College band might not even bring its full roster.

TIME'S UP: Is there anyone who doesn't give the commemorative watch?

DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS: Where else can you get a three-by-four-inch commemorative belt buckle with a Texas Bowl logo on it?

ALOHA MEANS GOODBYE: Unless you're Charlie Weis, who will be back in South Bend next season. The 6-6 Fighting Irish get a Kahala Aloha shirt, Hawaii Bowl silk tie, Hawaii Bowl custom backpack, a KICKER iKick500 iPod/iPhone dock, Oakley sunglasses, a beach chair, beach towel, T-shirt, calendar, hat, visor, luggage tags. Lose four out of your last five games and all this can be yours!

WHAT A DRAG: The rolling duffel bags, the luggage, the backpacks. These guys travel to five, six games a season. You don't think they've got the gear for it?

HOTTEST GIFT: What's hotter than the hair dryer? "These aren't the low-end hair dryers, either," Hilburn said. "These are those ionic hair dryers, whatever that means." Hey, if you don't like the look, the Sun Bowl has a nice cap to cover it with.