Last year, the Pac-12 looked east to extend their conference, adding Colorado and Utah. Now, the Pac-12 is looking to the Far East — across the Pacific to China — to extend their brand.
No, Beijing Sports University’s football program doesn’t want in to the conference. Like the MLB, the NFL and the NBA, the collegiate conference is starting to showcase their sports on an international level in the hopes of attracting a new audience.
According Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, while football is the big money-maker domestically, the focus is on a few specific sports:
“I wouldn’t rule out football. But there is so much interest in basketball and the other Olympic sports that I think we’ll focus on that.”
The first sports to make the jump were men’s basketball and women’s volleyball. The UCLA men’s basketball squad, accompanied by Scott, team just finished a tour of China in August where they played three exhibition games.
The Women’s volleyball teams from Stanford and Cal will host exhibition matches against a club from Jiangsu this week. The match at Stanford will be played Wednesday at 7 p.m., with Cal’s match taking place Thursday night.
Both matches will air on the new Pac-12 Network, which is fine if you have Comcast. If you have AT&T, DirecTV or Dish Network, find a friend that has the network to organize a viewing party.
Some may wonder if the conference should worry about getting their network to the viewers within their existing territory before expanding overseas. It’s a legitimate claim.
One positive to come out of the deal between the conference and China is that it allows players to experience something they may not ordinarily have a chance to do.
Here’s what Scott told Mercury News writer Jon Wilner:
“All but one of the UCLA players had never been outside the United States. Seeing the sites, meeting the people, getting a sense for a different culture — it makes a meaningful impact educationally.”
That number is startling to me. Just one member of the 13-man roster had been out of the US before the trip. Anything that forces Americans to see another part of the world is more than okay with me.