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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — A surge in students from China has prompted the University of Illinois to add Chinese-language broadcasts of its football games this season.
Broadcasts will begin Friday when the Illini open their season at home against Kent State and will be available online as well as through a mobile app, the (Champaign) News-Gazette (bit.ly/1JodfPl ) reported.
The university has more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students from China. That's largest group of international students on campus and a fivefold increase in Chinese students over the past decade.
"We're hoping that this program is really going to help us engage with our Chinese students on campus, and also our alumni across the United States and abroad," said Karl Feak, assistant director of marketing for Illini athletics.
Mike Waddell, senior associate athletic director for external operations, acknowledged that the untapped Chinese market could also translate into increased sale of team apparel and other merchandise.
"Everything has to be looked at when you're talking about one of the large economies in the world," he said.
The Chinese broadcasts by two students will offer basic explanation of a game likely unfamiliar to many of its listeners as well as traditional play-by-play coverage.
Junior Bruce Lu, a native of China who grew up watching NBA games and American football on television, said he plans to study Chinese-language broadcasts of past Super Bowls as he prepares to team up with broadcast partner David He, a sophomore who has worked with the school's athletics program.
Waddell said the school is considering Chinese-language broadcasts of men's and women's basketball games should the football experiment prove popular.
Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com
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