Major college football is a multibillion dollar business, one that is beginning to take its product into international markets.
There have already been examples of college football games being played overseas. Navy and Notre Dame opened the 2012 season in Dublin, Ireland. Central Florida and Penn State are scheduled to play in Ireland as well to open up the 2014 season.
Texas athletic director Steve Patterson wants to add to college football's presence in foreign markets. Earlier this week, he spoke to Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman about a potential game in Mexico City, Mexico.
Patterson also expressed interest in expanding the Longhorn brand into Asian markets like China:
Expanding the Longhorns brand into foreign markets like China because once on an Arizona State basketball trip there to play three games in four cities, he discovered UCLA had a “staggering” 70 retail stores there. “What are the big markets we want to activate?” Patterson said. “What games do we play to benefit the broad interest of the institution, not did we go and beat some team?”
That line of thinking branches from Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who told Pete Thamel, formerly of the New York Times, three years ago that he planned to have a Pac-12 game in China in the near future.
Scott said in a telephone interview Saturday that he expected the Pac-12 to play games in China in the next three to five years, and that he hoped the league’s cable network would someday be available there.
But back to Patterson's idea of playing in Mexico. Much like portions of Latin America, Mexico is considered an emerging market by Forbes.com.
A market that college football, largely, hasn't tapped into yet.
There's the Aztec Bowl, which has recently matched players from Divsion II and Division III against players from Mexico. This would be bigger, though. Much bigger. A Texas game would be likely the biggest college football event ever hosted in Mexico—especially if it's against a brand-name opponent.
That presents its own set of challenges.
An unofficial prerequisite for Texas to play in Mexico is that the game replaces a pre-existing road or neutral site game. Texas already forfeits a game in its home stadium every year because of the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Losing another one is basically out of the question.
There are options, though.
Texas has road games at Notre Dame in 2015, Cal in '16 and USC in '17. Assuming the Pac-12 doesn't go to an eight-game conference schedule like it reportedly considered last fall, the Golden Bears and Trojans are slated to have five conference home games in those years.
The drawback is that Texas is also a brand that draws attention. What are the odds a Notre Dame or USC would be willing to give up a home game against the Longhorns? That has all the makings of a guaranteed sellout.
There's another potential option: Texas makes a deal with a Big 12 school to play the game in Mexico and broadcast it on the Longhorn Network in an effort to sell it to TV providers. Then again, how many conference members would be willing to do that?
There are pros and cons to every option. Scheduling: It's a puzzle.
Of course, Patterson wouldn't consider moving a game, let alone scheduling one, if it didn't have short and long-term payout. Not only would Texas need to see real dollars from the event itself, but it would need to develop a brand recognition that pays over time through television contracts and merchandise sales. Patterson obviously feels these goals are possible.
It's an intriguing idea, especially if it ever gains traction.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football.
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