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Australia Trip A Chance for Cal Football to Build Sport's Fan Base

Sonny Dykes

Sonny Dykes

Offensive lineman Steven Moore is still learning about Australia ahead of his Cal Golden Bears visiting Sydney for the 2016 season opener against Hawaii.

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He knows enough to avoid the waters, he said at Thursday’s session of the Pac-12 Football Media Days at the Loews Hollywood Hotel.

“I know there are a lot of sharks. I’ve heard about that,” Moore said.

Indeed, the ocean surrounding the island nation is home to roughly 180 different species of shark.

But a different kind of Australian also will welcome Moore and his teammates Down Under next month, which he learned firsthand Thursday.

“I met a little kid in the hotel who’s from Australia who asked for my autograph,” Moore said. “He’s a huge college football fan. I didn’t know people in Australia are college football fans.”

The game that has grown into America’s most popular over the last decade or so is still quite foreign to the rest of the world. Its presence beyond the United States is growing incrementally every year, with games played overseas.

The video package shown at the opening of Thursday’s event touted “Pac-12 Globalization.” Last season, the conference sent the Washington basketball team to China for a matchup with Texas.

But basketball is wildly popular in China, and the Pac-12’s presence on the hardwood there merely capitalizes on a preexisting fascination. In the case of football’s expansion, Cal takes on a much different role.

“We’re bringing a whole different type of culture over there,” Moore said. “We’re representing the NCAA.”

Games on foreign soil have grown in popularity in the last few years. Ireland hosts its third regular season game since 2012 this year when Georgia Tech faces Boston College in Dublin.

Cal and Hawaii are taking it to the other side of the Pacific.

The Week 0 contest presents the two teams a chance not only to be goodwill ambassadors of the game, but to enjoy a wholly unique experience from any other college programs.

“It's going to be just a great opportunity for the guys to go experience something they'll probably never experience again the rest of their lives,” Cal head coach Sonny Dykes said.

The Golden Bears will see sights and experience the host country, but the reason for the trip — a game with Hawaii -- counts the same on their schedule as any of the other 11 dates.

To that end, Cal has to focus on the task at hand. That includes shaking off any jet-lag accrued on a 15-hour flight.

“We’ve got eight days to adjust,” Moore said. “By Day 2, we’ll be fine.”

That’s a good thing for the Bears, and for the viewing audience. With a strong showing, Cal football could leave Sydney with many more fans like the one seeking Moore’s autograph in Hollywood.

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.