Stanford, Harvard tip-off unique Pac-12 China Game experience at Alibaba
HANGZHOU, China - In a new wing of the Alibaba Group campus that hosted world leaders for the G20 Summit just two months ago, student-athletes from Stanford University and Harvard University received a crash course in global business from Alibaba executive vice chairman and co-founder Joe Tsai to begin their experience as part of the 2016 Pac-12 China Game.
Monday’s trip to the company’s headquarters in Hangzhou marked the start of Year 2 of the landmark partnership between Alibaba and the Pac-12 for the Conference’s Global initiative.
The two groups, along with longtime Conference partner Federation of University Sports of China (FUSC), hosted the inaugural Pac-12 China Game last November for the first-ever regular season contest by an American sports league – collegiate or professional – in the country.
A year after welcoming the University of Washington and University of Texas to throngs of media on the campus, Tsai played the role of teacher much of Monday. Against a display of the company’s big data logistics, Tsai said he felt “like a professor to a class” as he presented to the Cardinal and Crimson the core business principles that have helped Alibaba grow into the world’s largest online and mobile commerce company since its founding in 1999.
Following Tsai’s educational seminar, the two teams spent the rest of the morning touring the newly completed conference center and museum that welcomed the heads of the world’s 20 leading economies, including United States President Barack Obama, in early September.
In the afternoon, the teams toured more of the campus and hit the hardwood to get ready for their season-opening contest on Saturday in Shanghai that will be televised live in the U.S. this Friday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. PT on ESPN2.
Stanford freshman Trevor Stanback, who was born just over a year before Alibaba was founded, was excited to not only prepare for his first collegiate contest later this week, but also make the most of his first trip abroad.
“It’s definitely a great experience, it’s my first time out of the country so I’m super excited anyway, and to have my first game here is pretty awesome,” said the forward from Pasadena, Calif. “To learn as much as I can about the culture and to be with my teammates in a different setting will be beneficial to help each other grow as teammates and people.”
Harvard senior and All-Ivy League forward Zena Edosomwan, an East Asian Studies major who has toured China the past two summers for educational conferences, is anxious to introduce the element of sport on his return to the country.
“It means a lot because basketball is the No. 1 sport here and the thing they’re trying to grow is the idea that you can actually do both as a student-athlete,” said Edosomwan. “We’re bringing the entertainment of college basketball along with these great student-athletes from great institutions, I think it’s a different dynamic and a form of soft diplomacy.”
Earlier in the morning, Tsai welcomed representatives from both universities, including coaches Jerod Haase and Tommy Amaker and Stanford alumnus Jason Collins, leadership from the Conference and Ivy League, and Pac-12 legend Bill Walton to reiterate the importance of the relationship built by Alibaba and the Conference of Champions.
“For me, this is very, very personal. I have a lot of personal experience with athletics,” said Tsai, a former lacrosse student-athlete and 1986 alumnus of Ivy League rival Yale University. Tsai’s wife Clara is a graduate of Stanford.
“We have two of the top academic institutions in the world coming to China - Harvard and Stanford are the two biggest academic names in China,” said Tsai. “To have these two teams come - with their incredible academic track records – to also showcase top-tier basketball, I think that’s a very, very unique circumstance and I really look forward to the game on Saturday.”
“In China, the whole idea of sports is to represent the country,” added Tsai. “Americans see sports as part of life, part of the education of life. We think that’s a much more balanced approach – you can both play sports and do well in school. I think that’s the culture and value we want to bring to China. That’s why we’re very happy to partner with the Pac-12.”
About Pac-12 Global:
Founded in 2011, Pac-12 Global is an unprecedented effort to proactively promote the Conference and its member institutions globally through student-athlete exchanges and sport. The Initiative uses the shared passion of athletics to support the ambitious international strategies that many of our universities have embarked on to extend their reach around the world. For more information on the initiative and its history, go to www.pac-12.com/global.