In the spring of 2010, a group of college football coaches, athletic directors and their spouses took a weekend Caribbean cruise that included a stop at a 141-acre water park, parasailing over a private island and lounging in hammocks while sipping Coco Locos. None of the guests paid for the trip.
Summer Splash is a semi-regular retreat hosted by the Orange Bowl, one of the four bowls in the Bowl Championship Series. The partnership among the bowls, universities and athletic conferences creates college football's top games and national championship.
Last year's Summer Splash cost the non-profit organization that runs the Orange Bowl $159,324, and included guests from the Atlantic Coast Conference, according to a trip itinerary. The ACC's football champion has gone to the Orange Bowl the past six years, and the conference and schools significantly subsidize the game by paying for large blocks of bowl tickets every year.
This symbiotic relationship is typical in the world of sports, where teams and event organizers work together to finance and market mega-contests that are lucrative and mutually beneficial. But there is increasing concern among critics that such gift-giving and spending by bowls has gone too far, particularly given that the BCS bowls are run by non-profit groups.