Notre Dame has already crossed the pond to play a college football game in Ireland. Penn State and UCF will officially announce shortly, perhaps as early as this weekend, that they will do the same.
The Pac-12, though, has its eyes set on traversing a much vaster body of water on the other side of the world.
Speaking to the imitable Bryan Fischer of the Pac-12 Network, conference commissioner Larry Scott laid out his plans for the future “globalization” the league. Select sports have already traveled or will travel to China in the future, with Scott noting that, given the conference’s positioning on the West Coast, “it’s only natural for us to look West with so many of our schools already doing it.”
Based on the sports tremendous popularity in the country, basketball will serve as a linchpin for the Pac-12 as it looks to penetrate that vast, collegiately untapped market. While football is a different animal entirely than hoops — primarily larger traveling parties equaling much greater travel costs — taking a game overseas into China is something the conference has studied and will continue to study.
In fact, it seems more a matter of when and not if.
“I think we will have football [in China] at some stage,” Scott told Fischer. “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.”
Whether or not a college football game in China happens in five years or a couple of decades, it appears the conference in general and the commissioner specifically will leave no stone unturned in its quest to expand the league’s brand to a potential audience of billions.
Oh, and as an aside: Scott noted in his interview with Fischer that the acronym for the Chinese equivalent of the NCAA is the “FUSC.” Now pardon me while I go take care of the irony dripping off of my computer screen…
The father of Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph was killed Friday in an accidental shooting, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Darryl Rudolph was working on repairs inside a West Palm Beach, Fla., when a gun accidentally fired in an adjacent room, hitting him in the back/neck area. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 55 years old.
The younger Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver over the past two seasons before becoming an early-entrant into this week’s NFL Draft. He gained viral notoriety after a photo snapped of him sitting at lunch with an autistic elementary school student hit Facebook.
“When I used to coach and help other kids with football, basketball and sports, Travis was small but he used to pay attention to what I was doing,” the elder Rudolph said in an interview with ESPN last year. “I told them get your education. You can be the best athlete in the world, but without an education, you’re not going very far. That’s what Travis followed through on.”
LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.
“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).
Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.
In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.
A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.
Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.
Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.
Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.
“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”
It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.
Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.
For the third consecutive year, Ohio State is your national champion in the all-important category that is spring game attendance. The Buckeyes once again had the largest attendance for its spring game this month despite stadium renovations cutting out 20,000 seats from Ohio Stadium. After a weekend that saw Alabama and Penn State prove to be the final hurdles necessary to clear, the Buckeyes can once again boast about having the highest attendance this spring, for whatever that is worth.
Alabama (73,426), Penn State (71,000) and Georgia (66,133) made their final push to round-out the top five spring crowds this year over the weekend. The only power conference programs remaining on the spring game schedule are Arkansas, Oregon, Virginia, and UCLA this coming weekend. If you took the combined spring attendance of each of those schools, they would collectively fall shy of Ohio State’s spring crowd total for this season.
Spring Game Attendance Top 10 for 2017 (as of 4/24/2017)
- Ohio State – 80,134
- Nebraska – 78,312
- Alabama – 74,326
- Penn State – 71,000
- Georgia – 66,133
- Clemson – 60,000
- Michigan – 57,418
- Florida – 48,000
- Auburn – 46,331
- Oklahoma – 43,723
How valuable the attendance figures for the spring game varies from fanbase to fanbase, and even within each fanbase there is a wide range of opinion on what the significance of the spring game attendance really is. It does help inject some reason to be enthusiastic about the program on the recruiting trail, but it ultimately is open to interpretation just like so many other recruiting tools. Remember, the majority of schools out there hardly make an effort to promote their spring game and make it an event fans look forward to. There may be no conference that demonstrates the wide range of affection for the spring game than the Big Ten.
The Big Ten is led by Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and, recently, Michigan when it comes to spring game crowds, but then there is the curious case of Wisconsin. The Badgers have a loyal following, but have not cracked the 10,000-fan mark since 2014, when I began tracking spring game attendance figures. Northwestern has never even kept track of its spring scrimmage numbers, and neither has Indiana for the past three years.
You can check the updated spring game attendance numbers and sort them by conference HERE.