The University of Hawaii football team will play a game in a foreign country for the first time when it opens the 2016 season against Cal in Australia.
The game on Aug. 27, called the Sydney College Football Cup, will be played at the 83,500-seat ANZ Stadium.
Hawaii replaces Baylor, which was originally scheduled to play the Golden Bears in a game that will open the college football season a week before most other teams start play.
UH is expected to make a net profit in six-figures on the venture, which includes sponsorship handling the team’s air travel, lodging and ground transportation, Hawaii athletic director David Matlin said.
The schools got an exception from the NCAA to start the season a week early. The Rainbow Warriors play at Michigan on Sep. 3 and at Arizona on Sep. 17 after a home game against Tennessee-Martin.
Michigan and Arizona will likely be ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 to start next season.
Hawaii opened 2015 hosting Colorado, then played the next week at Ohio State, and at Wisconsin and Boise State after a home game against UC Davis.
UH, which completes its season at home against Louisiana-Monroe tonight, is 2-10 and has lost nine in a row after beating the FCS division Aggies.
Matlin said benefits, including exposure in Australia where several UH sports teams recruit heavily, outweigh the possibility of another schedule with several challenging road games in the first several weeks adversely affecting the team for the entire season.
“No question we had to weigh that,” Matlin told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “From my thinking I did wrestle with it a lot, spread sheet with pros and cons. At the end of the day I said, ‘What’s my goal? What’s my vision for this department? It’s to build something that’s sustainable. I believe we have to do things differently.
“Our football program has tremendous pride in not only representing the state of Hawaii, but all of the Pacific region,” Matlin said in the release announcing the game. “From a cultural perspective, this game will afford our student-athletes an experience they will always remember and give most of them the chance to travel outside the United States for the first time in their lives. Traditionally, the University of Hawaii has been fortunate to welcome many student-athletes from Australia and we hope this game opens doors for many more.”
UH football alumni from Australia include Colin Scotts, Paul Manera, Mat McBriar, Alex Dunnachie and Scott Harding.
Nick Rolovich, who is from the San Francisco Bay Area, will coach his alma mater against his hometown team in his first game as UH’s head coach.
This will be Cal’s second game ever outside the United States. The Golden Bears and Washington State played to a 17-17 tie on Nov. 28, 1987, in Tokyo.
Cal coach Sonny Dykes called it a “once in a lifetime experience.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report