The football team didn’t play a bowl game this past holiday season, but Temple junior Jennifer Benson represented the Owls in winning fashion.
A tourism and hospitality major, Benson was the winner of a contest during halftime of the GMAC Bowl on Dec. 21 in Mobile, Ala. The grand prize was a 2007 Saturn Sky Roadster. The metallic silver convertible is valued around $27,000.
To get there, Benson and four other Temple students were entered into a drawing – along with 145 students from 29 other universities – to decide who would compete for the car.
Benson competed against three students representing Tulsa, New Mexico State and Utah State at the GMAC Bowl, where Toledo beat Texas-El Paso, 45-13.
Benson beat the other contestants, two female students and one male, in a challenge to determine who needed the least amount of time to change into shoulder pads, a jersey and a helmet. Benson was unsure of her exact time, but she estimated it to be around 30 seconds.
A Susquehanna, Pa., native, Benson said goodbye to her 1998 Ford Taurus last month, and she owes some credit to her father, who also attended the game and contest. Benson’s father, John, caught a fellow contestant cheating during practice runs that took place ten minutes before the actual competition.
“The girl from New Mexico [State] already had the jersey over the shoulder pads ready in her bag,” Benson said. “After she got caught once, she tried to do it again, and my dad caught her, again. It wasn’t like we were telling on her, everyone should just have an even playing field, right?”
Her secret to success was simple, she said, and it didn’t involve being dishonest.
“When I put the shoulder pads on, I made sure that I had the straps in my hand, so that I did not waste any time trying to find the straps,” she said.
Benson won her new ride, but only she and her father were able to enjoy it live. The halftime contest was advertised to be aired live. But at home in Susquehanna, her family and friends were unable to see her win the contest.
After her mother received the good news, she advertised the victory with a banner that proclaimed “Jennifer Won.”
The trip wasn’t entirely glamorous, though. With her father and grandfather, who made the trek to Mobile from his home in Orlando, Fla., Benson was a first-hand witness to the damage left by Hurricane Katrina in nearby Dauphin Island, Ala.
“When we got to the end of the bridge [into Dauphin Island], we saw the stilts that hold up houses, but there weren’t any houses on top of them,” she said. “It was devastating.”
Benson competed in a similar contest on Sept. 17, when the Owls hosted Toledo. Going against four Temple students, Benson’s roommate, Allison McDermott, won the contest’s $1,000 prize.
Benson and other Temple students won’t have to represent Temple at a Mid-American Conference bowl game much longer. The Owls, who become full members of the conference in 2007, will play six games against MAC teams in 2006. They played four MAC teams last season.
While the Owls will again be eligible for one of two MAC bowl game bids at the conclusion of the 2006 season, they cannot qualify for the MAC Championship until their affiliate membership expires prior to the 2007 season.
Kevin Maloney can be reached at email@example.com.