Spanning the Globe: A History of College Football’s Games Abroad

For a sport that supposedly does not have much footing outside the United States, there have been a surprising amount of college football games played abroad over the years. Wide-eyed college athletes have spanned the globe to play in these foreign games and make memories in the process. From the Bahamas to Tokyo, here are a few of the more usual and interesting locales in which college football games have taken place outside the United States.

 

Texas A&I VS Henderson State – Europe, 1976

This matchup was interesting because it was not a single game, but a five-part series played out across the continent throughout the month of June. The two teams played in Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Mannheim, and Nuremberg. Another interesting point: the Texas A&I Javelinas swept this entire series. Amazingly, Texas A&I went on to win the NAIA national championship that year as well, its third consecutive national title and sixth overall. That year, it is safe to say the Javelinas dominated all over the world.

 

Clemson vs. Wake Forest – Japan, 1982

Japan has an interesting history with college football. In fact, 21 games have been held in the country since 1976, and they have typically attracted anywhere from 50,000 to 86,000 football “fans.” One of the most notable came in 1982 when defending national champion Clemson took on conference rival Wake Forest in Tokyo’s Mirage Bowl. The final score at National Olympic Stadium, was surprising and a little too close for comfort for the Tigers, who defeated the Demon Deacons, 21-17.

 

UAB vs. Ohio, Bahamas – 2017

In the program’s first year after being reinstated, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Blazers had a memorable season. Coach Bill Clark led the team to the Bahamas Bowl in Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau, a well-earned trip in which the Blazers met the Ohio Bobcats led by coach Frank Solich. The first-ever meeting between the schools did not go well for UAB as Ohio stomped the Blazers into the sand, 41-6. Although only one team enjoyed the outcome, at least all the players experienced a vacation many can only dream of having.

 

BYU vs. Colorado State – Australia, 1987

Only three years after winning a national championship, the Brigham Young University football team found itself in Australia at the Melbourne Bowl on a December day, playing Colorado State at Princes Park stadium. December is a summer month in Australia and one of the prime times for visiting “Down Under” so focusing on football was hard, especially since it was winter back home in Utah. Still the BYU players managed to keep their minds off the sandy beaches long enough to win a close one, 30-26. Then they probably found time to soak in the sun.

 

Notre Dame vs. Navy – Ireland, 2012

With its strong Irish ties, it is a no-brainer that the Fighting Irish would play in Dublin and did so for the second time ever in 2012. Notre Dame did not disappoint its Irish faithful, sinking Navy 50-10. On its first Irish excursion in 1996, the Irish had also drummed Navy 54-27. When defending its heritage, Notre Dame definitely does not mess around. The Fighting Irish went on to earn a spot in the BCS National Championship Game that season, but lost to Alabama, 42-14.

 

Pacific Lutheran vs. Evangel – China, 1991

When thinking about the world’s historic stadiums to host college football games, Worker’s Stadium in Beijing does not come to mind immediately–if at all. But in 1991, Pacific Lutheran took on Evangel in the only college football game ever to be played in mainland China. The game had a surprisingly large turnout of 25,000 curious spectators who came to learn about the brutal American sport. Despite lots commotion and distractions, Pacific Lutheran won, 20-7. H&A

 

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