Dec. 30, 2011
By Mike DeGeorge
Bowl gifts are a big deal. Whether it’s gift cards or iPods, apparel or watches, they serve as a both a tangible reward and memento of your team’s berth in college football’s postseason.
In some way, the gifts also represent the bowl, its host city or its sponsors. Enter the Helen of Troy Hair Dryer. One of the most talked about — and as Hyundai Sun Bowl executive director Bernie Olivas admits “made fun of” gifts in bowl history.
“El Paso is the largest manufacturer of hair dryers in the world,” said Olivas, an El Paso native, a bowl volunteer since 1983 and the Bowl’s chief since 2001. “That’s the story behind it.”
But what Olivas doesn’t joke about, though, is what the Helen of Troy company — based in El Paso — and its president and CEO Jerry Rubin have done for the history of the Sun Bowl, which along with the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl, are the second-oldest bowl games in America behind the Rose Bowl.
“The Sun Bowl has always been about the City of El Paso and Jerry Rubin is a big part of that,” said Olivas.
Rubin went to El Paso High School, graduated from UTEP and now runs the Helen of Troy company, which is a manufacturer of such brands as Sunbeam, Revlon and Dr. Scholls.
“He’s a huge part of the great history of this bowl,” said Olivas.
Rubin’s company is nearing three decades of Sun Bowl support, including a stint as the title sponsor from 2004 until 2009. Rubin first wanted it called the Vitalis Sun Bowl, then switched to the Brut Sun Bowl for the next four years. (It’s been the Hyundai Sun Bowl the last two years.)
[Random Fast Fact: the Sun Bowl was the first-ever bowl to add a title sponsor, with John Hancock’s partnership in 1986. Now all 35 bowls have title sponsors.]
The hair dryer has been part of the Sun Bowl’s gift package for nearly 30 years. It’s a tradition that’s sure not to change, and it’s music to the curls for mothers and sisters of Sun Bowl players everywhere.
“I already passed that one to my mom,” said senior linebacker Steven Sylvester. “I don’t have enough hair for that.”
But don’t worry. A hair dryer’s not the only reward for a Sun Bowl participant. This year’s gift line-up for the 78th annual game also includes a watch, a fleece pullover, a back pack, a hat, a commemorative coin and, most importantly, a gift suite pass valued at $350. The suite includes everything from a shower radio to a high-end recliner.
“We feel we have one of the best bowl gift packages in college football,” said Olivas.
That still hasn’t pulled the plug on the dome dryer jabs.
Former Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton, who played in three Sun Bowls, was blowing hot air in a 2001 Sports Illustrated article with this: “How exciting do the gifts sound? Want my hair dryer? I was hoping for an iPod, but the better the bowl, the better the gifts.”
He later apologized and said he was excited to receive his rewards.
Current Yellow Jacket signal caller Tevin Washington has taken the higher road.
“I’m giving it to one of my sisters or my momma.”