Domestic realignment has muddled the NCAA landscape in 2013, but with the Pac-12 a few years ahead of all that mess, conference commissioner Larry Scott is taking time to explore some options overseas.
In talking with the presidents and trying to determine the strategy for the conference going forward, it became clear to me that globalization was a big deal for the schools.
Given the West Coast position of our conference, our schools are already the gateway to the Pacific Rim. There’s already a heavy Asian influence and it’s only natural for us [as a conference] to look West with so many of our schools already doing it.
Scott would later hit on Pac-12 football specifically, saying he could see it eventually playing in China, albeit not in the immediate future:
I think we will have football [in China] at some stage. I think it’s more of a longer-term thing. I’ve done due diligence on it during my trips…It’s very expensive to bring teams over there and I just don’t know if it’s practically very viable right now.
The report also mentions Europe as a possible destination for Pac-12 football games, citing it as a better short-term option than China. Whatever the logistics, though, it is clear that Scott and the Pac-12 are serious about global expansion and that they want American football to be part of that process.
This news continues an NCAA-wide effort to spread the game East, coming on the heels of a report about Notre Dame, Alabama and Penn State wanting to play future games in Dublin, Ireland. Notre Dame played Navy there last year in front of 48,820 fans.
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It also comes in conjunction with the NFL's effort for Eastward expansion. The league's annual London game has been successful since debuting in 2007, expanding from an annual to bi-annual event in 2013, and prompting commissioner Roger Goodell to speak openly about eventually placing a full-time team in England.
These are all steps in the right direction for American football, a game most other countries don't understand. Unlike soccer or basketball—the latter of which has flourished overseas under NBA commissioner David Stern—the allure and even most basic rules of the sport are abstruse to non-Americans.
By making an effort to join this globalization, Larry Scott and the Pac-12 have outed themselves as forward thinkers in the greater football community. Whether or not we'll see the immediate fruits of their labor remains to be seen. But for now, they deserve a pat on the back for being progressive.