This January, standout football players from the Ivy League will be going head-to-head with All-Stars from Japan's National Football Association (NFA) in the inaugural "Dream Bowl," held all the way in Tokyo.
The Ivy League, led by longtime former Penn and current Columbia head coach Al Bagnoli, will send a 52-player team comprised of seniors and graduate students from its eight member schools. The NFA squad will be comprised of players from the X League (Japan's top American football league), college players, and some crossover athletes who compete in other sports as well.
According to The Athletic, The idea was hatched when NFA officials, with the intent of growing the sport of football in Japan, contacted the Ivy League to gauge its interest in competing in the Dream Bowl.
January's contest would not be the first edition of an Ivy League-Japan All-Star game, though. The Ivy Epson Bowl, which took place between 1989 and 1996, acted very similarly to the upcoming Dream Bowl, with Ivy Leaguers facing Japan's best players.
A week before the game, the Ivy League players will arrive in Tokyo to take part in a set of cultural experiences. Additionally, two Ivy League professors will be accompanying the players to enhance the educational experience of the trip.
The Ivy League does not participate in the FCS playoffs, so a trip to play in Japan would be the final football experience for many seniors. The NFA hopes that the Dream Bowl can emphasize how much American Football is being played in Japan, which they believe has gone under the radar.
“The student-athletes will receive an incredible cultural and educational experience during their time in Japan as well as a chance to play the game they love in a unique international setting,” Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris said in a press release. “It is a testament to the global reputation of the league and the storied tradition of our football programs that the organizers from Japan contacted the Ivy League when developing the vision for this event. We are grateful for their collaboration and share in their excitement to display the skill and talent of Ivy League football to an international audience.”
Penn and the other Ivy League schools have yet to announce which players and additional members of their coaching staff will be traveling to Tokyo in January. Based on the All-Ivy selections announced Nov. 22, likely senior selections from Penn include offensive lineman Trevor Radosevich, running back Trey Flowers, defensive lineman Jake Heimlicher, linebacker Garrett Morris, defensive back Kendren Smith, punter Ben Krimm, and return specialist Julien Stokes.