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International Football Games Get Around Foreign Tour Restriction

Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports:

ESPN has had discussions with the Big 12 and Pac–12 about possibly playing a football game in Mexico City.

That sentence raises many conflicting emotions and some hard questions for college athletics. One popular view is that a television network wants to drag athletes to Mexico for a football game that will result in additional missed class time and more money for the conference and institutions but not those athletes. #AmateurAthletics

Done poorly, this can be correct:

Another possibility [Texas AD Steve] Patterson acknowledged Tuesday could be a future sporting event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

“We have a lot of folks in the oil and gas industry,” Patterson said. “Houston is the center of the world in terms of the gas industry. A lot of those alums spend time in the Middle East, and Dubai is a place that wants to use sports to help put itself on the map. So we’ll have some conversations, and we’ll see where they lead.”

A game in Dubai set up either by or for alumni in the energy industry would probably not count as doing a foreign game well. But done properly, a foreign football game can get around one of the more restrictive football-specific rules regarding foreign tours:

A foreign football tour shall be considered that institution’s postseason opportunity for that season, the accounting period to commence with the start of the institution’s normal beginning of fall football practice.

To do a foreign tour in football, the institution has to not have played in a bowl game, which means putting together a foreign trip for potentially hundreds of people in a matter of a couple months. In addition, a foreign tour has to be during a vacation period and may not be within 30 days of the start of the season. With concerns about concussions and time demands on athletes, even if the logistics could be overcome foreign tours in football are just not an option at the FBS level.

A foreign game can provide the same experience as a good foreign tour, provided the institution takes steps to make it more than flying to another country to play a game then getting back as quickly as possible. The trip should be long enough that it includes time for sightseeing and cultural experiences. The faculty athletics representative and other professors should travel as well. Faculty approval would be appropriate too, since in many cases the players would end up missing a week of classes. An academic component tied to the trip would be nice, but may not be possible in the post-UNC environment.

Good destinations, a carefully selected itinerary, and involving more than just the football program and athletic department can provide a unique experience for athletes. And it can turn what might look like a cash grab and recruiting trick into something more beneficial.

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