Many remember Notre Dame kicking off the first Saturday of the college football season with a 50-10 stomping of Navy in Ireland, a game that also spawned a pretty cool book. It appears that Penn State is looking to get in on the overseas action, as they are trying to move their 2014 tilt with UCF to Ireland, perhaps because it would feature a tough matchup of coaches with O' in their name. The Pac-12 has also eyed to make inroads into China, hoping to eventually get the Pac-12 Network on Chinese TVs, and Stanford and Notre Dame have talked about playing a game there.
Let's hold all the "but Jim Delany is going to sign Toronto and McGill to the Big Ten" jokes for a second. If Notre Dame, Penn State and others are playing games overseas, is this something Ohio State should look into?
Playing football games outside of the US isn't exactly a new development. In a sign that college football was different back then, a bowl game in 1907 was played in Cuba, called The Bacardi Bowl. This game initially featured schools from the deep south against Cuban institutions, and went about as well as you might expect.
The longest run of international games was the Mirage Bowl, which ran from 1977-1985, which became the regular season Coca-Cola Classic, which ran until 1993. While the early matchups were light on heavyweights (the first Mirage Bowl featured Grambling over Temple), later matchups would feature the Barry Sanders lead Oklahoma State Cowboys (45-42 over Texas Tech in 1988) or the David Klingler fireworks explosion 1990 Houston Cougars (62-45 winners over Arizona State). Nebraska defeated Kansas State in 1992, and Wisconsin defeated Michigan State 41-20 in the 1993 finale of the series, securing a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Notre Dame has the best overseas record, with a sparking 3-0 record outside of the US. BYU, Grambling and Clemson each have two, with BYU having a 30-26 win over Colorado State in Australia under their belt as well.
So what's in this for Ohio State, besides ending the indignity of being behind Grambling and BYU in the wins column of some kind of college football stat?
For one, there is a possible recruiting advantage. World travel is expensive, and most of the kids the Buckeyes will be recruiting have never had the chance to visit Japan, Australia, China or anywhere in Europe. Adding an all-expenses paid trip to see a new part of the world could be one more feather in Urban Meyer and company's cap to help the Buckeyes stand out.
There is also the idea of being an ambassador for the sport. Participation rates in American football are low outside of North America, and allowing a football game to be played somewhere else gives the sport critical exposure. If certain teams do this on a regular basis, it could enhance the financial situation of a program or league (continuous B1G games in England may lead to BTN subscriptions in England), or even expose possible prospects to football, and that university. It worked for BYU and Ezekiel Ansah after all.
Such a move wouldn't be without drawbacks though. For starers, Ohio State would be down a home game, something AD Gene Smith recently said he'd be concerned about, given OSU's economic impact on local hotels, restaurants, etc. Such a game would probably have to be the first game of the season, given the high travel and logistical costs, which could potentially put the team at a competitive disadvantage for the following week. There is also the fact that overseas games are far away, making the matchup a difficult trip for many fans.
Could Ohio State pull it off? While the school doesn't have a direct historical tie to a particular country like Notre Dame does with Ireland, Ohio State *is* a globally focused research university, and with over 500,000 living graduates, you're bound to find Buckeye grads living and working just about everywhere. The main question would be, where to play the game?
NFL teams have played in front of large crowds at Wembley Stadium in London, and a matchup of two strong teams plus an American ex-pat population could make the game a success. The Buckeyes could also look east, either back in Tokyo, or perhaps to beat the Pac-12 to the punch and grab a game in China. NFL games have also been held in Mexico City, and while not overseas, such a matchup would certainly sell tickets and give student athletes a broader cultural experience.
Failing all of that, Ohio State could blaze a completely new trail, and try to get a game in North Korea. Braxton Miller couldn't be a worse diplomat than Dennis Rodman, after all.
The fundamentals are all in place; if Ohio State wanted this to happen, they probably could. The only question is, do the benefits outweigh the costs?
Do you want Ohio State to play a game outside the US, and if so, where, or against whom?