On the heels of adding two universities to its conference, and securing a $3 billion TV contract, the Pac-12 has turned its attention overseas. The New York Times reports that Larry Scott, the conference’s commissioner, boarded a plane headed for Beijing on Sunday. Yes, Beijing.
Scott has ambitions of playing Pac-12 sporting events in China. All of the professional sports leagues like the NFL and NBA already has business stakes in foreign territories, but a collegiate conference playing games that count in China — not just the exhibitions — would be a first.
Scott has previous experience working with China during his tenure with the Women’s Tennis Association, and he has scheduled meetings with many Chinese officials. His aim is to build ties that will hopefully introduce the skill of Pac-12 sports into the Chinese market. There are also talks of Notre Dame and Stanford playing their scheduled 2013 matchup in China.
Unlike many of the other BCS conferences, the Pac-12 Conference’s location plays into its favor. Of all American universities, the big name schools on the west coast like UCLA and Cal — namely because of academics — already have a strong presence in China. In fact, many of the schools’ independent push for international exposure is what led Scott to Beijing.
Scott is also banking on the fact that collegiate sports in China does not compare to America. Sports in China is all about the Olympics and state sponsorship. While Scott has downplayed the role of money into his expansion aspirations, this business trip is no doubt about branding and renminbi — Chinese currency. Tapping into Chinese wealth cannot be ignored as a motive.