Schools and conferences are always looking for ways to gain additional exposure, but usually that exposure is relegated to just within the the United States. For the Pac-12 conference, however, they are seeking to take their brand to a global level with an initiative in China.
It’s no secret that China presents robust opportunities, which is why the Pac-12 believes that there is serious potential for an increase in research collaboration between schools in the conference and universities in China, boost Chinese enrollment at Pac-12 schools, and possibly garner Chinese investment in the conference.
As reported by Jon Wilner of College Hotline, the Pac-12 launched a globalization initiative two years ago with a focus on China. There are many ways to cultivate a relationship between the Pac-12 and China, but using athletics — specifically basketball and volleyball — as a means of strengthening the league’s relationship with Chinese universities and businesses is an integral aspect of the initiative. Basketball, along with volleyball, are two of China’s most popular sports.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said: “We use the term ‘front porch’ to describe the potential role athletics can play for the universities … how athletics can create opportunities for the universities more broadly.”
It isn’t uncommon for schools to take summer trips to Europe and other foreign countries, but it isn’t too often that regular season games take place overseas — remember last year Connecticut and Michigan State kicked their seasons off at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Just last summer, UCLA men’s basketball played exhibition games in China, and fortunately they fared better than the Georgetown team who threw haymakers and punches in a vicious brawl while in China.
According to Scott, there are not any plans to take Pac-12 football to China as there is little interest in American football there, but don’t rule out the possibility of a regular season game — maybe even a conference game — taking place in China. Of course there are logistical issues that must be taken into consideration, but it’s important to recognize that the higher-ups in the Pac-12 are on board with such an idea.
I’m not sure how thrilled some of the Pac-12 basketball coaches and teams would be of a game like this as a trip to China in the middle of the season can really wear on a team, but the exposure the Pac-12 would receive is undeniable. With more and more foreign players making their way into the college game every year, perhaps a Pac-12 school would land the next Yao Ming on their roster if annual games are played. That wouldn’t be a bad trade-off, would it?
You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11