(Update: I stand corrected. Apparently college football games were played in Japan from 1986-1993 in what was known as the Coca-Cola Classic. Thanks to Navy Bird Dog for pointing that out to us.)
For years, college basketball teams have played summer exhibition games in all corners of the globe. Coaches use it as an excuse to get in a few extra practices in, get players off the cozy confines of their college campus, as well as to simulate some actual game repetitions. As an example, the Duke Blue Devils are touring China as we speak. Oh, and apparently Georgetown was in China earlier this month too. Not that their trip made any headlines or anything.
Unfortunately, college football teams have never considered the same. Besides the fact that football doesn’t have the international appeal of basketball, there is that whole idea of actually getting a football team overseas.
Think about it for a second. Playing overseas wouldn’t just be about providing airfare, hotels and football to 85 overgrown football players, as well as the head coach and assistants. But it’s all the ancillary stuff beyond that too. Just think of the nightmare of trying equipment, shoulder pads, helmets, medical supplies and the like on an international flight. At the very least, it certainly gives “lost luggage,” a whole new meaning. Imagine if Delta lost 85 sets of shoulder pads? Nick Saban might literally have a heart attack on the spot. And nobody wants that.
For that, amongst many reasons, a major, Division I college football team has never considered playing overseas. That is, until now anyway.
According to a report from the Idaho Statesman this morning, the Hawaii Warriors (whose basketball program is currently touring in Japan) are considering playing a football game in the Land of the Rising Sun. And it could happen as soon as the 2014 season.
This, from the Statesman:
Jim Donovan, the school's athletic director, revealed the prospect while in Osaka over the weekend for a men's basketball game. Hawaii was finishing up a 15-day tour through China and Japan.
The Rainbow Warriors could play a football game in Japan as soon as 2014. Donovan said he met with executives of the Osaka Dome, where the proposed game would take place.
Donovan said Hawaii would consider opponents in its Mountain West Conference, which includes national powerhouse Boise State, and the Pac-12 Conference.
In theory, this all sounds great, although again, I’ve got to wonder how realistic this is. Again, we’re talking about transporting 85 football players, coaches and administrators overseas, feeding them and housing. Not to mention that Hawaii isn’t Texas, Ohio State or Florida, where money is of little issue. Remember, this is a school that was so cash strapped a few years ago, they couldn’t even provide soap for players in the team locker room.
Then again, Hawaii has to travel for all their football games, and all things considered, Tokyo really isn’t that much farther than most of their other road trips. For example, a quick Google search yields that the distance from Hawaii to Tokyo is roughly 3,850 miles, just about 1,100 more than the distance to Seattle (2,700ish). Sure, that's a big distance. But given that most of Hawaii’s road trips are much further than Seattle, it really kind of isn't. If anything, it makes a lot more sense for a school like Hawaii to play in Japan than one say from the Big East or ACC.
Still, it’s an interesting proposition none the less, and I’m all for any way for young people to travel the world, and get to do things that they wouldn’t normally otherwise. Isn’t broadening your horizons what college is all about?
Remember this too: It isn’t the first time a major college football entity has talked about the Pacific Rim as the next big enterprise. Pac-12 Commissioner has talked about expanding his brand to Asia as well in light of the conference’s new TV deal
I’ll be interested to see if this story actually comes to fruition over the years or not.
But it is still a fascinating proposition none the less.
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In 1972 and 1973, American College teams played in what was called the Rice and Silk Bowls. These were games played against Japanese All Stars. The first team was Utah State in 1972 and the next year was the University of Hawaii Rainbows. Evidently, another team (I think Ivy League) was scheduled to play in the 73 games and at the last minute, the arrangements fell through. Hawaii was invited and the coaches called players back from Christmas vacation to prepare for the game which included passports, and yellow fever shots. (yes, at that time they still had it). A charter flight was arranged and fell through and the Hawaii players left the islands in groups of 5-6 and the seniors got the non stop flights. Freshmen like me flew back to California and on to Alaska and Osaka, landing just in time for the game in a sleet storm. We played two games, one against the Osaka area all stars and second against All Japan in Olympic Stadium. The stadium was packed and a large number of American military in the stands. The largest Japanese players were under 200 lbs but hit like demons. UH won both games, but one thing is for certain -- Japanese like American football. I just read that Hawaii has offered a scholarship to a Japanese high school player who is a long snapper. This will be a big deal in Japan! I hope more American teams play in Japan in the future and get to live this wonderful experience. Hawaii is a great candidate to play regular games in Japan, as Japanese have great interest in all things Hawaii. Japan has a very popular American Football Association, and also a number of colleges play as well as some semi pro and factory teams. Some coaches have noted that Japanese players are capable of playing at some level in the USA, and there have been a few play in the East West Game if I remember correctly. Glad to see this discussion online.
University of Nebraska defeated Kansas State on Dec. 5th 1992 in Tokyo Japan. Final score was 38 to 24.