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The Tampa trophy at the center of college football’s bowl season

Levy Recognition makes the trophies for five bowls, including Tampa’s Gasparilla Bowl and ReliaQuest Bowl.
Tampa's Levy Recognition makes trophies for five bowl games, including the Gasparilla Bowl.
Tampa's Levy Recognition makes trophies for five bowl games, including the Gasparilla Bowl. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Dec. 22, 2022

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

Levy Recognition’s handiwork, the Prime Minister’s Trophy, was the prize UAB won by beating Miami (Ohio) in the first game of the sport’s second season. The hardware is one of five bowl trophies made by the six-decade-old shop. The others are Tampa’s ReliaQuest Bowl, Boston’s Fenway Bowl, Arizona’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl and Friday night’s Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. When Missouri’s Eliah Drinkwitz or Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson picks up the ornate amalgamation of wood, metal and cast metal, the company’s 26 employees will beam.

“It’s really cool to see it in action on television and know that you were a part of it,” vice president of sales Mike Adams said.

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

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

As the name evolved, the award did, too, from a wooden trophy to a metal one with a boomerang to a crystal one. When ReliaQuest, a locally based cybersecurity company, took over the title sponsorship this year, the process started over.

“They really wanted to have creative input in what the trophy looked like,” said Janel Morris, Levy Recognition’s creative development manager.

For starters, the company wanted something players could celebrate with easily, unlike the 60-pound crystal trophy the bowl used in previous years. That was too heavy and too fragile.

They settled on a geometric design made from 28 pieces of cast metal soldered together. The base has the bowl logo on it, too, so it’s visible when hoisted it into the air during the ceremony.

Every trophy starts the same way, with back-and-forth design discussions with event organizers and sponsors about the brands, history, geography and traditions. Ideas become renderings and 3D models.

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

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 pieces of the park’s old bleachers into the final product. They settled on a clear acrylic layer at the bottom that encases dirt from the warning track.

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

Once a design is finalized, Levy Recognition gives itself about three months to build the trophy. Though the company uses outside specialists for some jobs like woodcutting, most of the work (including acrylics, decoration, printing and final assembly) are done in Tampa.

The final cost: somewhere between $5,000 and $25,000.

Though the firm also makes awards for other businesses and other industries, Adams calls college sports its “bread and butter.” The five bowl games are a major part of that, beyond the trophies themselves. Levy Recognition also handles bowls’ gift suites, giveaways and gear for summer events.

The highlight, of course, comes when an excited, victorious team celebrates an end-of-year accomplishment with a symbol Levy Recognition spent months working on.

“I think there’s a big sense of pride on my side, designing it,” Morris said. “To see something that you spent so long imagining and really fine-tuning, and then to see it live on TV is very, very cool.”

Up next

Gasparilla Bowl

Wake Forest vs. Missouri

Friday, 6:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Tickets: gasparillabowl.com/tickets/

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