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Football: Cajuns have good practice, pick out bowl gifts

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, December 17, 2014


Besides dealing with the whole practice-at-the-Superdome thing, perhaps the most-enjoyable — and, for some, nerve-racking — thing UL football players preparing for Saturday’s New Orleans Bowl had to do Wednesday was shop in the gift suite.

According to Sports Business Daily, “at least $5.4 million will be spent on gifts that will be given to the 2014-15 bowl game participants, up 11 percent compared with the expenditures of a year ago.”

Some bowls give everyone the same gift or gifts — headphone or tablets for all, for instance.

This year and last, though, the New Orleans Bowl has gone the gift-suite route.

Players are permitted, by NCAA rule, to receive gifts valued up to $550.

In the New Orleans Bowl gift suites, items are valued by points — and each players is given eight points to spend. They can spend all eight on one gift, or divvy things so they add up to eight.

A Trek mountain bike can he had for seven points. A sweet-looking recliner costs six points, or a nifty Yeti cooler can be had for five points. X-box games cost four points, as do Beats headphones. Fossil watches cost three points each.

The list goes on and on.

“You walk in there, it’s like, ‘Do I want this, or do I want that? How can I use this, how can I use that? Can I get somebody some Christmas presents?’” senior safety Sean Thomas said. “It gets stressful at the end, because it’s like, ‘How am I gonna use these last couple points? What am I gonna do with these?’

“Other than that, it’s fun. You walk in there, and your eyes light up like, ‘Man, I can get this. I can get this too.’”

Last year, Thomas got three gifts.

Kicker Hunter Stover went for just one in 2013.

“I didn’t really know what to do,” said Stover, who wasn’t sure again this year. “I didn’t know what I needed, so I found this big speaker for eight points and said I’ll just spend it all on that.

“It really is tough.”

Some players buy for themselves; others go holiday shopping.

Senior center Terry Johnson, however, said he’ll utilize unused per diem money to buy Christmas gifts for his nephews this year.

“The gift suite’s for me,” said Johnson, who was eyeing some Beats wireless headphones.


UL coach Mark Hudspeth said the Cajuns’ first practice at the Superdome in New Orleans this week was “very spirited,” especially considering it came “after the first night and day they (UL players) had to have a lot of fun in the city.”

The Cajuns had a team fun-and-games party early Tuesday night at Shamrock Bar ’n’ Grill, then watched the New Orleans Pelicans’ NBA win over the Utah Jazz from lower-level seats at Smoothie King Center.

Curfew was much later than it will be late this week.

“I thought, man, our guys woke up ready to go and attack practice,” Hudspeth said, “and I thought we had a very good practice. Very solid.”

After Wednesday’s practice, Cajun players visited NOLA Motorsports Park to race go-karts.


Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), ex-Texas and former North Carolina coach Mack Brown (analyst) and Kaylee Hartung (sidelines) will call Saturday’s New Orleans Bowl for ESPN.

Wischusen is usual radio announcer for the NFL’s New York Jets.

Brown, now an ESPN college football commentator, will be returning to the Superdome, where he coached Tulane from 1985-87.

Hartung, originally from Baton Rouge, is a former University of Texas Longhorn Network reporter now working as an ESPN reporter.