For the first time, NCAA hoops is heading to Paris.
The South Carolina women’s basketball team will face off against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Nov. 6 in the City of Light, the two teams announced on Wednesday. The game, which will be the season opener for both teams, is billed as the first-ever NCAA basketball game — men’s or women’s — to be held “on Parisian soil.”
The upcoming event reflects two growing trends: an increasing interest overseas for American sports, as well as skyrocketing popularity of women’s college basketball.
“It’s always been my mission to break barriers and provide opportunities for my players to have life-changing experiences,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said in a statement. “Women’s basketball is on the rise, and having this exposure will help to grow the game on an international level.”
In recent years, more American leagues have looked at staging events abroad. The NFL has expanded beyond London games to Germany and is interested in other European cities. But so far, college sports haven’t followed suit.
The American system of college sports, which ties high-profile teams to schools, is nonexistent in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. So interest hasn’t been as high as it has been for professional leagues, like the NFL, who have captured the attention of overseas sports fans who are traditional fans of other professional team sports, like soccer.
Notre Dame has historic ties to Ireland and is one of the few schools with a somewhat consistent presence in the country — it will play Navy this season in Dublin.
But the event between the Irish and South Carolina could be a sign that more schools and conferences are on-board with bringing college sports across the pond.
Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark, for example, previously told Front Office Sports he was interested in taking the conference “international,” though he didn’t specify if he meant overseas games or just international brand recognition.