At this point, staging football games in foreign countries is not a novel concept. The NFL has hosted games in London for years. Notre Dame played Navy in Dublin last season, and other college football programs are likely to follow suit in the future. International exposure, in both professional and college sports, is an idea most sports executives can generally agree is a good thing.
Yet Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, one of college sports’ most forward-thinking leaders, could take the idea one step further. In an interview on Wednesday with the Pac-12 Networks' Bryan Fischer, Scott hinted that his league could expand the conference’s globalization efforts as far away as China:
“I think we will have football [in China] at some stage,” Scott remarked. “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 NFL has been over there for years trying to develop fans and end up doing a lot of grassroots activity. It’s just hard when it’s not an endemic sport and that’s the beauty of basketball and the Olympic sports.”
Other Pac-12 sports, including women’s volleyball and men’s basketball, have already tested the waters in China. The biggest difference is that basketball is already popular in China; football isn’t. As Scott notes, interest in the sport has not yet developed on a large enough scale to the point where hosting college football games would make the far-reaching international branding impact Scott desires. Still, the possibility is on the table. Pac-12 football in China feels like a distant proposition, at least at the moment. There are logistical and financial issues to untangle, plus the small matter of trying to sell a sport to citizens who aren't particularly familiar with it. If this does eventually happen, expect it to come a few years down the line.