When Larry Scott said in 2011 that he wanted to get the Pac-12 into the Chinese market, the new commissioner wasn't just flapping his gums.
Just a few days after a Pac-12 all-star volleyball team returned from a tour of China, the commissioner said Wednesday that the league was looking into getting football to cross the Pacific as part of its globalization initiative.
As Scott told Pac-12 senior digital correspondent Bryan Fischer:
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.
And when you think of Asia and the Pacific, China is the highest priority.
For the college football world, this will not be that big of a deal. Outside of jet-lagged players, strategically-placed bye weeks, odd start times for fans and/or players and a stadium or two that seem a little weird, odds are the bulk of the college football world will hardly notice.
However, for the Pac-12 itself, this is just what the proverbial doctor ordered.
The push from the West Coast to the Far East is very real. There exists a far more fluid relationship between the two realms than is prevalent in America as a whole. Thus, while the SEC or Big Ten might not see contests abroad as anything beyond a unique stunt of sorts, the Pac-12 places real value in building the relationship.
In short, forget about the college football world. The Pac-12, led by Scott, wants to take over the world—starting, of course, with China.
And not just in football, which is a fledgling sport in the Chinese sporting landscape. The conference has really invested in basketball as a means of growing its brand overseas. Team tours, coaches clinics and contests against pro and collegiate Chinese teams are the currency in which the league is dealing. On Wednesday, the league announced three summer basketball tours in China as part of its globalization initiative.
Add to it the conference partnering with Hupu Sports Media, one of China's premier sports marketers, and you can tell the league is serious.
Scott admits that football in China is still a ways away, but the interest in making it happen is very real. For now the league will focus on sports that already have a solid presence in China as it looks for ways to make the gridiron push beneficial. As Scott said:
There’s a lot of education that needs to be done about college sports in general and the Pac-12 specifically. In China, I would like the Pac-12 to be seen as the elite athletic conference in the United States with some of the best-known brands.
Football in China is still in the development stages, but the Pac-12 push to become a part of Chinese culture is real. It might not mean much to the college football fan, but to the Pac-12's member institutions and perhaps the conference's bottom line, the move is a strong one.