Temple University basketball games soon may attract a new audience - in China.
Five international students from China will vie Sunday to become Temple's official broadcasters of men's games in Mandarin. The two winners will do live broadcasts and highlight reels for the team's six remaining home games, starting Thursday against Tulsa.
Their broadcasts will be streamed on Owl Sports, the official website of the athletic department, and the highlight reels on YouTube and Youku - China's version of YouTube.
The venture is expected to further integrate Temple's growing Chinese student population into campus life and increase Temple's profile in China, where basketball is enormously popular.
"It's from both sides," president Neil D. Theobald said. "It helps our students and . . . it gets the message out there better."
Nationally, the number of Chinese students studying in the United States has been exploding. Temple enrolls 1,600 students from China, undergraduate and graduate, double the number from five years ago. They represent 4 percent of the student body.
The growth brings diversity and more revenue. Foreign students pay out-of-state tuition, which runs more than $25,000 a year.
Temple follows the University of Dayton, which in November began student broadcasts of basketball games in Mandarin, and the University of Illinois, which started Mandarin broadcasts of football in the fall.
"It has been an absolutely wonderful venture," said Michael LaPlaca, Dayton's assistant athletic director, who noted that night games typically draw 200 to 400 listeners in China.
Theobald said he got the idea on a trip to China last summer when he was asked to send the Owls there for exhibition games.
Students were game for the experiment. About two dozen submitted audition tapes, and five finalists emerged.
"I am participating in this contest to show everyone that a Chinese girl can broadcast sports, too," said Echo Chen, 24, a graduate student in counseling psychology who played basketball in high school.
The contestants will gather on campus Sunday to watch the Owls play South Florida. The game is in Tampa, but the students will view it on TV, and each will get four minutes to show his or her broadcasting prowess as a five-member panel of professors, students, staffers, and a live audience judge their tryouts. At halftime, winners will be announced.
"I realized how crazy college sports are, and I really want to be a part of it," said Javi Yuan, 21, a sophomore media studies and production major.
The aspiring broadcasters watched the Owls practice Monday, fresh off an upset victory over Southern Methodist. Temple coach Fran Dunphy welcomed them.
"We're happy to be a part of it," he told them.
"Be honest. Be yourself. Be critical with a thought of these young men not being professional and trying their very best for the university and their team. And have fun with it."
Dunphy encouraged the group to attend practices and learn as much as they can about the team.
"Professional broadcasters memorize the players, the positions they play, their sizes, their abilities," he said. "They need to fill that airtime."
Metsky Liu, 21, a graduate student in psychology, has been studying. She grew up watching basketball with her father, an avid fan, in China. When she gets homesick, she watches Temple play.
She hasn't told her father about the contest: "If I lose, I don't want him disappointed."
No matter the results, Brooke Walker, assistant vice president for international students, said she expected the experience would be a good one.
"Twenty years later, you might not remember what grade you got on a calculus test," she said, "but you might remember this broadcasting experience."