(Photo Courtesy: USA Today Sports)
With the success of Notre Dame’s game in Dublin last season and previous discussions by the Pac-12 to hold games in Asia, college football is a sport that seems set to global. That is of course, if it hasn’t already.
And apparently it’s an idea that has been at the forefront of John Swofford’s mind too, a man who seems intent on bringing ACC sports as a whole- including football- across the international dateline and into Europe.
At least that’s what Swofford told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd in Pasadena, Calif., last week. While the rest of the conference commissioners were in town to discuss the parameters of a new college football playoff, Swofford was apparently thinking bigger, and thinking about ACC football under the lights of the Eiffel Tower.
Here’s what he told Dodd, in an article which was posted at CBSSports.com on Monday morning:
“The NFL is going to London, as is the NBA with some regularity,” the commissioner said. “The Olympics are so successful over there. Basketball is an international sport. Football is not, but there is a growing interest in it in Great Britain.
“When you look at this collection of schools and markets, all our institutions are international in one degree or another.”
Safe to say it’s an interesting idea that, especially in its infantile stages, still does have many different moving parts. However, in the world we live in, where just about everything is becoming globalized and the world is growing smaller by the day, we do think it’s something that can work.
Interestingly Swofford mentioned basketball, and for the ACC in particular, hoops might actually be the best place to start. For one, the sport of basketball is bigger in Europe than football, and at this point, the ACC is still admittedly known more for their product on the hardwood than they are on the gridiron. While it’s impossible to confirm, we’re pretty sure that the name recognition Coach K brings (who don’t forget, led the Olympic basketball team to a gold medal in both 2008 and 2012) is much likely to sell out a 20,000 seat hoops arena than Jimbo Fisher’s would an 80,000 seat football venue.
Ironically however, Fisher’s name might be an appropriate one to bring up on this particular day and on this particular subject. You know, since he is the man who spent the last three years coaching German-born first round NFL Draft pick Bjoern Werner.
And it’s speaking of Werner which is why we do believe this could work.
Whether anyone realizes it or not, Werner is just the first face of a growing generation of young athletes taking to football for the first time in Europe. The sport is already popular in places like Germany and Austria, and in recent years more and more European born players are making their way across the pond to play Division I football. UConn has a massive defensive lineman named Andreas Knappe from Denmark and UNLV has a linebacker named Max Ehlert who was raised in Finland. And that’s just to name a few European-born players now playing college football.
(Speaking of which, Crystal Ball Run has a story on the European explosion of football coming later this week. Keep an eye out)
Finally, this seems like the perfect time in the growth of the ACC as an individual conference to try and play games overseas.
Remember, they are set to begin a scheduling partnership with Notre Dame that will see the Irish play four games annually with ACC schools. Well, we already mentioned the success of the Irish in Dublin last September, and beyond that, umm, is there any school with more of an international reputation than Notre Dame? We think not, and we also think that a game with the Irish and just about anyone (yes, we’re even talking about YOU, Wake Forest) could draw a crowd.
Again, there are still a lot of T’s to cross and I’s to dot before anything were to become official.
But if college football is going to go to Europe, this seems like the right time, and the ACC the right conference to do it.
For all his opinion, insight and analysis, please follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.
Follow Crystal Ball Run on Twitter @CrystalBallRun.