Lost amid college football’s opening weekend slate is the “Croke Park Classic” matchup in Dublin, Ireland, between Penn State and Central Florida. And while head coaches James Franklin and George O’Leary would surely prefer to face off against one another in the States, the teams aren’t traveling over 14,600 miles collectively just to see the sights. This trip provides a unique opportunity for both universities.
It’s an opportunity for school officials to spend an extended amount of time in the United Kingdom engaging expat alumni, collaborating with other universities and building relationships with potential corporate partners. It’s a unique experience to present to current U.S. alumni who might like to come along for the holiday weekend trip. Not only that, but it’s an opportunity to cultivate prospective donors.
But beyond the fundraising component, another benefit is brand awareness overseas. The media coverage in the United Kingdom of a major American football game in their backyard will expose both university brands to millions. As large, research-oriented state institutions that attract many international students, both universities can benefit from this exposure. Especially considering that after Canada and China, the United Kingdom provides the highest number of international students to U.S. universities.
This isn’t the first foray into international college football, nor will it be the last. Saturday’s game marks the fifth iteration of a regular season college football game in Ireland; the previous two match-ups naturally featured the Notre Dame Fighting Irish versus Navy.
Texas athletic director Steve Patterson has discussed holding a game in Mexico City, while Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has ambitions of a Pac-12 presence in the Far East. Some may even remember there was a 16-year stretch beginning in 1977 where an annual regular season college football game was held in Japan. It’s safe to say we can expect to see more international exposure for college football moving forward.