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…
In the midst of reports that he had a physical altercation with one of his Tennessee players during summer camp this year, Butch Jones labeled the speculation “absolutely ridiculous.”
Apparently, his bosses agree with the head coach.
At a board meeting Thursday, UT-Knoxville chancellor Jimmy Cheek stated that he and athletic director Dave Hart had done their “due diligence” in investigating the accusations that Jones and senior offensive lineman Mack Crowder were involved in some type of physical skirmish during practice this past August. The end result of interviews with Jones, coaches and players was the conclusion that there was nothing to the reports and message-board rumors.
“There’s been a lot of rumor and misinformation on social media and message boards about an alleged incident during football practice,” Cheek said according to GoVols247.com‘s Wes Rucker. “It’s not our practice to respond to rumors, but I thought it was important to let you know that we’ve done our due diligence and Dave Hart and I are very confident there was no inappropriate conduct with any players or coaches.”
Shortly after Cheek spoke at the board meeting, Crowder took to Twitter with a series of missives that speaks around the issue.
Michigan played without its leading rusher in Week 5. The Wolverines are hoping there won’t be a repeat in Week 6.
De'Veon Smith sustained a lower-leg injury in the Week 4 win over BYU and didn’t travel with the team for last Saturday’s win over Maryland. Smith has been practicing with his teammates throughout the first few days of this week, and head coach Jim Harbaugh is guardedly optimistic that the running back will be available for what’s turned into a huge Big Ten matchup with Northwestern Saturday in the Big House.
“He’s practicing and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’s going to stay good and be ready to play,” Harbaugh said during a radio appearance Thursday morning. “But we’ll (keep) looking at that every day.”
Despite essentially missing a game and a half, Smith currently leads the Wolverines with 331 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He’s added four receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown coming out of the backfield the first four games.
Should Smith be unable to go again, the Wolverines have three other backs with at least 100 yards on the ground: Ty Isaac (187, 7.2 yards per carry), Drake Johnson (125, 4.2 ypc) and Derrick Green (100, 3.3 ypc).
In addition to Smith, Harbaugh is hopeful Channing Stribling will be available this weekend as well. The starting cornerback didn’t play against the Cougars because of injury