NCAA Football

The Tampa Bay Bowl is in the middle of the college football season

The Tampa Bay Bowl is in the middle of the college football season

When the college football season kicked off last week with the Bahamas Bowl, a Tampa company was front and center.

At the hands of Levy Recognition, the Prime Minister’s Trophy, it was the prize UAB won by beating Miami (Ohio) in the first game of the sport’s second season. The fitting is one of five cups produced by the sixty-year-old shop. The others are the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa, the Fenway Bowl in Boston, the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Arizona and Friday night’s Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. When Elijah Drinkwitz of Missouri or Dave Clawson of Wake Forest take hold of the ornate combination of wood, metal and cast metal, the company’s 26 employees light up.

“It’s really cool to see it in action on TV and know you were a part of it,” said Vice President of Sales Mike Adams.

Minnesota defeated West Virginia last year to win the Guaranteed Rate Bowl and the trophy, designed by Levy Recognition Tampa. [ RICK SCUTERI | AP (2021) ]

Levy Recognition has been involved in college athletics for many years, working with approximately 20 conferences (including the SEC). It became the trophy for several iterations of Tampa’s premier bowl game, the Hall of Fame Bowl, which became the Outback Bowl and now the ReliaQuest Bowl.

As the name changed, so did the award: from a wooden trophy to a metal cup with a boomerang to a crystal one. When ReliaQuest, a local cybersecurity company, took over the title sponsorship this year, the process started all over again.

“They really wanted to have creative input on what the trophy would look like,” said Janelle Morris, creative development manager for Levy Recognition.

For starters, the company wanted players to be able to celebrate easily, unlike the 60-pound crystal cup used in previous years. It was too heavy and too delicate.

They settled on a geometric design made of 28 pieces of cast metal welded together. The base also has the logo of the bowl so that it is visible when it is raised in the air during the ceremony.

Every trophy starts the same way, with a discussion of brands, history, geography and traditions with event organizers and sponsors. Ideas become images and 3D models.

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“That’s the part you really don’t want to rush,” Adams said. “Getting the right ideas down on paper so you can come up with the best possible reward.”

The process usually takes about three months, but some projects, like the Fenway Bowl, take longer. The bowl wanted to highlight the iconic baseball stadium’s rich history, perhaps by incorporating parts of the park’s old bleachers into the final product. They sit on a clear acrylic layer underneath that covers the dirt from the warning track.

The Fenway Bowl trophy contains dirt from the baseball park's iconic track.
The Fenway Bowl trophy contains dirt from the baseball park’s iconic track. [ WINSLOW TOWNSON | AP ]

Once the design is complete, Levy Recognition gives itself about three months to create the trophy. Although the company uses outside specialists for some work, such as wood cutting, most of the work (including acrylics, rendering, printing and final assembly) is done in Tampa.

Final price: somewhere between $5,000 and $25,000.

Although the firm also awards other businesses and other industries, Adams calls college sports his “bread and butter.” The five-cup games are a big part of that, apart from the trophies themselves. Levy Recognition also handles gift sets, gifts and gear for summer events.

The climax, of course, comes when the excited winning team celebrates the achievement at the end of the year with a symbol that Levy Recognition has been working on for months.

“I think there’s a great sense of pride on my part in developing it,” Morris said. “To see something that you’ve envisioned and really set up for so long and then see it live on TV is really, really cool.”


Gasparillo Cup

Wake Forest vs. Missouri

Friday, 6:30 p.m



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