Illini enjoying perks of the Rose Bowl



By Jason Grodsky

If earning the right to play in the Rose Bowl wasn’t enough for Illini players and coaches, the treatment they have received in Southern California has been top notch.

Since arriving in Los Angeles the Illini feel like they have been pampered like royalty, being chauffeured around to fancy restraunts, Disneyland and high class hotels, all while preparing for the biggest game of their lives.

For senior linebacker J Leman, the wait for the royal treatment has been a long one, but after fighting through rough losing seasons, the reward of being at the Rose Bowl has been more than he expected.

“The hospitality here has been really first class,” Leman said. “They really take care of the teams well.”


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Even if Leman and the Illini don’t beat USC on New Years Day, the players and coaches won’t return home to Champaign empty handed.

Each player and coach will receive a Sony Bravia theatre system, which includes a digital media port, five-disc DVD/CD player and a five-speaker surround system with subwoofer estimated at around $300.

“They sent it to us when we were at school so we wouldn’t have any issues bringing it back,” safety Kevin Mitchell said. “It definitely a nice gift and just adds to the way they’ve treated us here.”

All Bowls are allowed to spend up to $500 on each player, a $150 increase from what they could spend in 2005, with the hopes of showing-up the other bowls to increase the profile of their games with the flashiest toys.

Among this year’s top items given out by bowls were a Nintendo Wii package given out to LSU and Ohio State at the National Championship Game, a $400 shopping spree for teams in the Champs Sports and Capital One bowls, and $300 custom-fitted Nocona cowboy boots made with any kind of leather provided by the Texas Bowl.

But All-American offensive lineman Martin O’Donnell wouldn’t trade his new home theater system for any of the other gifts given out at other bowls.

“I would keep the home theater system because it’s exactly what I needed because after I get married I’m going to need one of those,” O’Donnell said. “Maybe I would’ve taken the money straight up and picked up a few souvenirs for my fiancé, but I would’ve kept the rest.”

While this is the first bowl game for any of the Illini players, it’s John David Booty’s fifth.

The USC quarterback is used to the first class services and has received top of the line electronics at every bowl he’s been too, including an Xbox and PSP. But his favorite was a $300 shopping spree at Best Buy.

“Us players usually like the game systems the most,” Booty said. “But personally when I got the $300 gift card to Best Buy I was thrilled because I got to choose what I want.”

On top of the gifts, the Illini don’t have to deal with the daunting Los Angles traffic. Police cars escort the team to practices, dinner and media appearances.

“Anywhere we go we have police escorts,” O’Donnell said. “When my parents asked me about traffic I can’t give them a straight answer because we don’t deal with it.”