Some are cool, and some are weird. All are prizes of some sort.
College football loves weird trophies.
The sport gives out trophies seemingly every week. Sometimes rivalry trophies are made up on the fly like the Civil ConFLiCT, or crowdfunded like the Bits of Broken Chair. Others go further back and have been swapped for decades with their own fun backstories.
But whether you have a trophy game in the regular season, every bowl team plays for a prize in the postseason.
There are literal bowls of stuff
Theyâ€™re not called bowl games for no reason, right? Some games take that moniker quite literally by awarding honest-to-God bowls. For example, the Potato Bowl fills its trophy with spuds.
The Citrus Bowl fills its trophy appropriately as well …
… but the Citrus Bowl didnâ€™t always adhere to its roots. Back when it was the Capital One Bowl, it had this boring thing as its trophy.
The mack daddy of Florida bowl trophies is the Orange Bowl. Youâ€™ll never guess what it is filled with.
Those oranges become projectiles once players and coaches start taking them out of the bowl and chucking them off the podium to their teammates celebrating below.
To the victors go the citrus.
The New Mexico Bowl gives its winner an empty vessel, but itâ€™s a very cool one.
With a market value of $2,500, this thingâ€™s pretty sweet:
It is a Native American clay pot meticulously handcrafted by artists Marcellus and Elizabeth Media from the Zia Pueblo. The 20-inch bowl-shaped pottery features the iconic Zia sun symbol and images of football players, a deer, mountain lion, buffalo and eagle.
Weird intertwine-y lookinâ€™ things.
Itâ€™s a curious design aesthetic, but several bowls make intertwined metal come to life. Like the Cotton Bowl.
The Cotton Bowlâ€™s trophy has changed â€œsignificantlyâ€� over the years, but Iâ€™d much rather the gameâ€™s trophy just be a smaller version of Big Tex, who presides over the original Cotton Bowl stadium.
The new Independence Bowl trophy does the same intertwining thing.
Iâ€™m assuming itâ€™s because Mizzouâ€™s mascot broke the old one.
The abstract trophy
Iâ€™m not sure why the old Birmingham Bowlâ€™s captivates me like it does. It is nondescript on its face …
… but its metal connection to the city of Birminghamâ€™s iron industry makes it kinda nice.
This is not your childhood sports trophy that could be easily lifted in the air with one hand. It is a steel-and-marble behemoth that weighs approximately 50 pounds and takes more than a month to forge. “[Bowl officials] came to us and said they wanted something that represents the rough-and-tumble steel industry, something that represents where we came from as a city,” Damsky says.
The trophy originates as a half-inch thick sheet of raw steel. It is cut to shape, and then a steel saw is used to chop a series of artistic marks along the top and bottom (chewing through a half-dozen steel bits in the process), giving the trophy “that rough look,” Damsky says.
Itâ€™s like a piece of abstract art. You paint your own opinions upon its blank canvas.
This year itâ€™s replaced by an even clearer line to the iron industry, and a much less ambiguous trophy.
It was a pleasure to officially welcome @TexasTechFB and @USFFootball to Birmingham at the 12th annual #BirminghamBowl Press Conference! #WreckEm #BullStrong @inbirmingham @cityofbhamal pic.twitter.com/oSESnW8uBQ
â€” Birmingham Bowl (@Birmingham_Bowl) December 7, 2017
That is a miniature version of the Roman God of fire (and metalworking), Vulcan.
Thereâ€™s a much larger Vulcan in downtown Birmingham.
The very obvious
Liberty Bowl. Liberty Bell. Get it?
The trophy with an identity crisis
In my mindâ€™s eye, the Sugar Bowlâ€™s is a shrunken-down version of three separate trophies (and in fact, part of it is detachable).
This is not to say that it isnâ€™t a cool trophy, but letâ€™s take it apart piece by piece.
At the top, youâ€™ve got the ball. Plenty of games go with just some version of a ball.
The Sugar Bowl puts a ball on top of what looks like Wimbledonâ€™s Gentlemenâ€™s trophy.
And it all sits on a base of a golden Superdome …
… which kinda looks like the Nebraska-Wisconsin trophy.
#Badgers & #Huskers introduce Freedom Trophy: depicts each team’s stadium, honors veterans http://t.co/KVIXC92Sdg pic.twitter.com/rpPqTT4N47
â€” Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) November 10, 2014
The best game trophy/MVP trophy combo
The Hawaii Bowl trophy is a football in the shape of a pineapple.
And yet it does not hold a candle to the gameâ€™s MVP trophy (a life-sized oar):
Another very good MVP trophy: the New Orleans Bowlâ€™s Mardi Gras-themed helmet.
The worst game trophy/MVP trophy combo
You would think that the Rose Bowl, The Granddaddy Of Them All, would have a better trophy than this:
Itâ€™s certainly an upgrade from what the trophy was until 2005:
I guess itâ€™s a classy little thing designed by Tiffany jewelers, and it fits the understated motif of the game. But like the Super Bowl and World Cup trophies, Iâ€™m just left wanting more.
Thatâ€™s before we even bring up the MVP award. .
That dinky little piece of glass is what you get when you place third in a piano recital in eighth grade. The most prestigious college football game in all the land should do better for its marquee player.
The glowed-up trophy
I have no earthly idea why, but the Fiesta Bowl used to award this as its trophy:
Thankfully, it upgraded to this 200-pound, 46-inch behemoth in 2002:
It takes two people to wrangle the thing …
… and the 18-karat golden football at the top comes off to be held in the sky by the winner.
Itâ€™s a gorgeous prize, and still my favorite trophy awarded in college footballâ€™s postseason.
The trophyâ€™s foundation entailed an intricate fabrication of five different shades of marble and granite, upholding the stunning complexities of the trophy. The center column was created using lapis lazuli, one of the most sought after stones in the world. Created to simulate the Arizona sunset, it was hand-carved in 18-karat yellow, green, red, peach and white gold. The sterling silver dome alone, enhanced with multi-colored windows created in jewelerâ€™s enamel, took more than 96 hours to complete.
And now, a brief ode to a trophy no longer given out in a postgame ceremony
It was beautiful, and it was perfect. The gleaming BCS crystal ball worth around $30,000 was the ultimate prize in college football for most of my young life:
But I did always wonder what would happen if someone broke it, and that eventually happened at Florida and Alabama.
When it was whole, it was really pretty. Get you a significant other who looks at you like Gene Chizik looks at the old BCS title trophy.
It is still awarded via the American Football Coaches Association. But itâ€™s no longer held high after the game, and thatâ€™s a shame.
And finally, about the current national championship trophy
Iâ€™ve come full circle on the beer glass/Sauronâ€™s eye-looking CFP trophy.
Upon three seasons of review, itâ€™s actually pretty cool. It looks a lot better pulled off of its base, too. The modern design is a worthy prize for the national champion.
I still want the crystal ball back, though.