There is no questioning the continued surging popularity of basketball in China with the country’s rabid fans seemingly unable to get enough.
Dayton’s athletics department is doing its part to expand the scope of the sport’s international exposure. Fans visiting the Flyers’ website will discover an audio broadcast feed in Mandarin, the most widely spoken language in China.
Six UD students rotated in pairs while calling each of the Flyers’ 17 regular-season home games in the 2015-16 season. They Flyers are doing it again this season.
“Any way that we are better able to integrate the international community with the institute that we have in China and with our current on-campus community is a win-win for everybody,” said Michael LaPlaca, Dayton’s assistant athletics director, multimedia. “In terms of working with these students it represents a great opportunity. They are excited, they are enthusiastic and they know basketball. So it was a really easy fit for all parties and I think it will be a great venture for us.”
It should not come as much of a surprise that Dayton has unveiled such an initiative. After all, more than 600 Chinese students attend UD and in the summer of 2012 the university opened a facility in China. The University of Dayton China Institute is located in a corporate park in Suzhou where one-third of Fortune 500 companies have a presence. In addition, UD has relationships with 10 Chinese universities.
Two months of game planning went into last season's broadcasts. Since this represented a different type of project with the Mandarin language, everything was carefully packaged as far as attracting potential student broadcasters. To date the only other schools with Mandarin broadcasts are Indiana for men’s basketball and Illinois for football.
“It was a fun process and very worthwhile as well,” said LaPlaca.
That process commenced by going through the international studies department, which got the word out to international students that the athletics department was interested in broadcasting all men’s home games in Mandarin.
LaPlaca said about 60 students expressed interest. Each was sent a two-minute video clip with ambient audio from a game last season. The clip contained a variety of game elements, including an exciting play and replays. Prospective broadcasters were asked to call the action and return the clip as their resume.
Sixteen clips were returned and LaPlaca took them to Dr. Lance Chen, an assistant professor in UD’s school of business administration, for review.
“We were looking for knowledge of the game, excitement and clarity of the language,” said LaPlaca. “We narrowed it down to six. I met with each of them and it is going to be fun to see them start and grow this program. These are wonderful individuals and I could not be happier for the crew that we have this year.”
Among those on board was the pair that called the game against Saginaw Valley State: Xueyin Shi, the lone female in the group, and Yiqing Zhou (above).
“I am very excited that this year I get to watch basketball games and broadcast them,” said Shi, a graduate student studying electro optics. “When I was in China I always watched NBA games with my friends.”
That enthusiasm was shared by Zhou, who is also studying electro optics as a graduate student.
“I am very excited for this opportunity and it is a dream to broadcast basketball games,” said Zhou, who noted family and friends will be listening back home all season. “I am a big fan of the NBA and I really like basketball. I was really excited about March Madness last year.”
It certainly helped that the Flyers made it to the 2015 Sweet 16 and advanced to the 2014 Elite Eight the year before. Frankly, this additional layer of brand awareness has the potential to be quite a recruiting tool.
“It is all about building our brand and capitalizing on that success,” said LaPlaca. “If you know what is happening internationally, especially in China, basketball is as popular as ever. We are taking advantage of that and helping grow the University of Dayton’s brand and identity with a program that students are enthused about. They can use this for job experience, they feel that they are more integrated into the campus community and it helps with academics. It is a no-brainer on our end.”
While it is a case of first things first, this initiative could be a front door to other projects down the road.
“All options would certainly be available,” said LaPlaca. “For us, we are focused on making sure that the broadcasts go well, that our students have a great experience and that it is well received. From there, as long as we start with a basic (feature) that is done at a high level, I think everything else can just flow from that and continue to progress in a positive manner.”Above: An audition of one of the six students calling Dayton games in Mandarin this season. (Courtesy YouTube)