When Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott recently mentioned the possibility of Pac-12 football teams playing in China as part of his globalization efforts, chances are most thought West Coast schools such as UCLA, Washington and Oregon might be the most logical candidates for such a journey.
However, Utah athletic director Chris Hill said he’d be interested in such a venture for the Utes.
“I’d like to learn more about it,” he said. “We’re only an hour, hour and a half away from the coast ourselves and if it is something that could help us, we’d definitely look at it.”
Scott sees expanding the league’s international reach as one of his top priorities and sees Asia, particularly China, as a fertile recruiting ground for Pac-12 schools.
Earlier this summer a Pac-12 women’s volleyball all-star team which included Utah’s Shelby Dalton, played in China and basketball teams from Cal and ASU are scheduled to tour the country in August.
In addition, a group of current and past Pac-12 men’s basketball coaches will hold coaching clinics for more than 150 coaches from China.
While the Utes might be known more for their mascot ties to Native Americans or for recruiting athletes from the Pacific Islands, Asians actually make up one of the largest ethnic groups at the university.
According to a University of Utah Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis, 5 percent of Utah’s enrolled students, equaling 1,435, identified themselves as Asian American for the fall enrollment of 2012-13, making it the third largest ethnic group behind those who identified themselves as ‘white’ (72 percent, 22,632) and ‘international’ (8 percent, 2,594).
Only 1 percent, or 187 students, identified themselves as Pacific Islanders and as American Indian (171) in the analysis.
Hill noted the trend in athletics and academics is going ‘global,’ and likes Scott’s international emphasis.
“We want to get more exposure for the league and for us,” he said. “Everything is going global now. The NBA is doing it, the NFL is doing it and we recruit from all over the world so if it’s reasonable and helps the program we are interested.”
Scott said in an interview with the Pac-12 Network the expense of taking a football team is an issue, making the prospect of taking football teams to China a ‘longer term thing.’