Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, who led the effort that brought Utah and Colorado to the conference mix this year, has come up with a way to simultaneously take the "N" out of NCAA and make traditionalists choke: Expand to China.
The New York Times reports that Scott will spend the next four days in China to launch an unprecedented effort to expand the conference's footprint there.Scott has meetings scheduled with NBA China, NFL China, various media companies, sponsors, event promoters, government leaders and officials from Pac-12 satellite branches.
Scott, who has also eyed a Pac-12 presence in Central and South America, among other places, told the Times that he expected Pac-12 schools to play regular-season games in China in the next three to five years.
Scott, who said he hoped that the Pac-12's cable network would be available in China within two or three years, insisted money was not the driving force.
“One of the things that resonated is the knowledge transfer and sharing of best practices,” Scott said. “It’s a cultural as well as sporting exchange.”
Although many colleges have played games, and toured, overseas, Scott's efforts mark the first concentrated attempt by a collegiate conference to establish itself in a foreign country.
Notre Dame and Stanford have reportedly discussed playing their 2013 football game in China instead of in California. Oregon, with its strong Nike ties through the company’s chairman, Phil Knight, also has a strong interest in China.
Bob Bowlsby, Stanford’s athletic director, told the Times: “It (China) is an emerging market educationally as well as athletically. It seems to me that international strategy is good for Stanford and the Pac-12 universities in general. All of them, especially along the West Coast, are heavily engaged in the Pacific Rim.”
Football would probably not be the first Pac-12 sport exported to China, given that China currently has no infrastructure to support it. But there is plenty of infrastructure in China right now to accommodate men's and women's basketball, volleyball, swimming, rowing, baseball, track and field and other Olympic-type sports.
Scott, who became Pac-12 commissioner July 1, 2009, has hired Carrie Xu, who recently received a master’s degree from USC in sports business and marketing, to help build a Pac-12 presence in China. Xu, who has worked for Nike in China on its basketball initiatives, is believed to be the first conference official hired to focus on overseas development.
University of Washington athletic director Scott Woodward told the Times, "This is going to be very important to us, not only for athletics but from a University of Washington viewpoint. This part of the world is an important part of our strategic plan of how we look at things.”
The Huskies have a history of rowing competitions against Chinese teams, having hosted the People's Republic of China as far back as 1990 in the Windermere Cup on the Montlake Cut. China's national rowing team also participated in the 2002 Windermere Cup.