To the glorious history of bowl gifts, inscribe the name Zac Hays.
Decades from now, when Georgia Tech players, their children and their children’s children gaze upon the wonder of their wobbling totem from the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl, they will have Hays to thank. An intern with the TaxSlayer Bowl, Hays brainstormed the most conspicuous item that Tech and Kentucky players will receive as part of their array of gifts from the game formerly known as the Gator Bowl – a personalized bobblehead doll.
“That’d be pretty cool,” Tech center Freddie Burden said. “I’m going to put it up in my room somewhere and look at myself all day.”
In recent years, bowl games have become fairly consistent in the gifts that they are allowed to bestow upon bowl participants (NCAA rules permit up to $550 in swag). The typical presents include watches, backpacks, sunglasses, gift cards and the always popular “gift suite” – a variety of items geared towards the post-adolescent male, such as electronics, bikes and recliners.
“We thought it would be sort of a collector’s item that’s not sort of the standard, ‘Here’s a $300 shopping spree somewhere,’” said Tom Norton, the TaxSlayer Bowl’s vice president of events and acquisitions and a subtle critic of the Belk Bowl’s gift assortment. “It’s more something that they’ll love and have on their shelves hopefully the rest of their lives.”
The TaxSlayer Bowl appears to be unique among the 41 bowl games with the personalized bobblehead doll. It was undoubtedly a first for most, if not all, of Tech’s players.
“I’d love a camera or something, but (a bobblehead doll) is something I can keep forever,” defensive tackle Patrick Gamble said. “I can show my kids. ‘Hey, y’all, I got my own bobblehead. Your daddy had his own bobblehead.’ That’s something serious. It’s definitely something I can save for a long time.”
The process involves more than slapping the appropriate jersey number and approximating skin tone and hair color. When the other gifts are distributed to the teams – a watch, a carry-on suitcase, sunglasses and a white-paneled football for autographs – players will pose for a head shot and a profile shot. The bobblehead company (Whoopass Enterprises – seriously, that’s the name) has the dolls hand sculpted in China and Mexico.
The creation can take several hours to complete, according to company officer Jackie Hayes. The subject can see the doll before it is finished to make suggestions before it’s completed. The process is expected to take 3-4 weeks. Consumers not playing in the TaxSlayer Bowl can pay between $119 and $189 for their own.
“I just hope they get it right,” Gamble said. “I don’t want them to give me a bobblehead without my beard. I just hope they put my beard on right. Give me a smile, and I’ll be fine.”
Norton was hopeful about how the bobblehead dolls would be received. At the least, it would likely go over better than the gift of online tax preparation, which is the business of TaxSlayer, headquartered in Evans, a suburb of Augusta. For the last two years, the centerpiece of the TaxSlayer Bowl gift package was a $400 Panasonic gift suite before the change was made.
“I think we’ve got some really cool options that they’ll enjoy and be able to use for a long time,” Norton said. “That’s how we rate the gift.”
At least one Tech player offered his objection, though not because of a problem with the concept.
“I’m really not looking forward to mine, because my head’s kind of big,” linebacker Victor Alexander said. “I already know what my head looks like. So I’ll be surprised if they even use the bottom half of the bobblehead.”