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College Football in Mexico: Why it Works

(Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

(Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

College football may be moving south of the border. In a recent Football Bowl Association meeting, ESPN president John Skipper mentioned that ESPN and the Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences have discussed playing a football game in Mexico City.

This wouldn’t be the first time college football has been played internationally. Ireland has hosted several college football games; Notre Dame played there against the Naval Academy as recently as 2012, while Penn State and UCF will fly across the pond to open the 2014 season in Dublin on August 30.

Believe it or not, the idea of hosting a game in Mexico City makes even more sense than sending the Fighting Irish over to Ireland. Here’s why:

Geography

Mexico City is two hours ahead of the west coast, meaning the game’s start time would be minimally affected by time zones. This would make it appealing to television networks, as it could be held during primetime without forcing a less than ideal local start time.

Attendance

Penn State-UCF will be played at Croke Park in Ireland, which can host 69,000 fans. That’s over 30,000 less than a Penn State home game. On the other hand, Azteca Stadium, home to the Mexican national soccer team, seats 104,000 fans. No school in either the Pac-12 or Big 12 can seat over 100,000 in their respective stadiums. This would allow for increased revenue from ticket sales, whether it be compared to Ireland, Austin or the Rose Bowl.

Cultural Ties

Similarly to how Notre Dame’s Catholic affiliation made the school an ideal fit for football in Ireland, the large Mexican population living within Big 12 and Pac-12 member footprints makes their teams logical candidates for this game. According to Pew Research Center analysis of the Hispanic population in America, Mexican origin Hispanics are the dominant group in many metropolitan areas in Arizona, California and Texas — areas in which the Big 12 and Pac-12 collectively have 10 members. Both conferences have teams that the Mexican populace is more likely to identify with, as opposed to teams from, say, the Big 10 or SEC.

The concept of football in Mexico is by no means revolutionary, as the NFL has also been down this road before. The league held a game in Mexico City in 2005 under the “Futbol Americano” campaign. Playing at Azteca Stadium, the Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-14 in front of 103,467 fans, an NFL regular season record. The NFL did not return to Mexico City, but began holding games at Wembley Stadium in London starting in 2007. I’d expect College Football to experience similar success south of the border.

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