According to a source inside the Texas athletic department, UT athletic director Steve Patterson is still exploring playing a football game outside of the United States, and has targeted Dubai as ideal host city. Former Texas football coach Mack Brown is headed to Dubai and Abu Dhabi next week representing the university while quietly meeting with deal makers in an effort to bring a Texas football game overseas.
Patterson started exploring the possibility of playing a football game outside of the U.S. in early 2014, right around the time the school's basketball team announced a game against Washington in China in November 2015. At that time, Patterson floated Mexico City as a possibility, but that idea was not backed by the most influential Texas alumni, who wouldn't support taking the team to another country when the "product on the field" would not represent the University of Texas in a positive light.
Patterson was taken back by the response from UT alum, but quietly pushed forward with the initiative to build a consensus in support of playing a high-profile out of conference game internationally. In August, Patterson told ESPN that he sees Texas as being in a unique position to grow its international brand, and said it's essential to use athletics as a platform to tell the university's story. He acknowledged Dubai as a potential destination then.
In the past 6 months, Dubai has emerged as the favorite to host a game, with a large contingent of wealthy UT alums living in the United Arab Emirates, working in oil and gas - and a potential UT satellite campus being opened in the country.
Step 1 in making it happen: Send Mack Brown on a fact-finding mission to meet and greet UT alum in the area, build support for a game, while uncovering logistical information of holding a game in the Arabian Desert with city officials.
Our source shed further light on the roadblocks to the event:
1. The largest stadium in Dubai, The Sevens, only seats 50,000 people, half of what a UT home game holds.
2. The game would have to be played very late on a Saturday or very early on a Sunday to align with playing during peak TV hours in Central Time, a concern that wouldn’t be present with holding a game in Mexico City.
3. Heat is a concern. The game would likely be played in September, which would lead to 100 degrees+ temperatures and very high humidity (although no too different from an early September game in Austin).
Who and when would the Longhorns play?
According to our source, the school would be most interested in playing the game against one of the following teams: Notre Dame, Ohio State, LSU, Army, or Navy. The appeal of Notre Dame and Ohio State are the very large, national followings of those schools, and the fact that there is a home-and-home already scheduled with those teams (an overseas game could be a third neutral-site game). LSU is also on the future schedule, and the Tigers have a large alumni base in the UAE in the oil business.
The two military academies are options given the location of the event being in the Middle East and the opportunity to fill the stands with American soldiers is enticing.
The Longhorns don't have an opening in their out of conference schedules until 2019, but there is potential to move or cancel another game to make room for playing an international game.
EDITORS NOTE: We tried to diligently confirm this story with a second source close to the UT athletic dept. When reached by phone, the second source would only say that he couldn’t comment in any way about future football games, nor the travel plans of those associated with the University.
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