Pac-12 in talks about moving league title game to Levi's Stadium
The Pac-12 is in discussions about holding its football conference title game annually at the new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
Commissioner Larry Scott confirmed to SI.com in a text message on Tuesday that the league is "discussing" moving away from its current format of having one of the participants host the game, as Arizona State did last December. If a change were made, it would go into effect this season, meaning the 2014 championship game scheduled for Dec. 5 would take place in the Bay Area.
Levi's Stadium is the new home of the San Francisco 49ers and would provide the Pac-12 with an ideal modern venue to give the game the feel of a big-time championship event.
Multiple sources indicated to SI.com that a permanent site for the Pac-12 championship has been a part of the discussions at the league's annual meetings taking place this week at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. Other venues have been discussed over the years, but Levi's Stadium is considered the heavy favorite.
The conference presidents and chancellors would ultimately approve whether to move the game away from on-campus sites. They hold their annual meetings in June.
The first three Pac-12 title games were played at the home stadiums of Arizona State, Stanford and Oregon, respectively. The Cardinal beat the Sun Devils in front of an announced attendance of 69,535 in Tempe last year. Stanford drew just 31,622 to campus for its 27-24 victory over UCLA in 2012. The inaugural game at Oregon's Autzen Stadium sold out, with 59,376 fans attending. Generally, the league has received positive feedback from schools and coaches about the home-hosting model.
Conference leaders see multiple positives in moving the game to the Bay Area, including the fact that Pac-12 schools all have strong alumni bases nearby. They also see the modern new stadium, replete with technological bells and whistles such as luxury suites and wireless Internet, as an added bonus.
The league found difficulties for schools hosting the game on short notice. Ticket sales were rushed, and athletic directors voiced concerns about potential issues with luxury boxes and season tickets holders needing to be moved to make room for corporate entities. With a game branded in one city -- just like the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta -- the league can sell tickets to the event year-round, not exclusively as a game tied to two specific schools.
Different cities have pitched Pac-12 about hosting over the years, including Phoenix, Las Vegas and Seattle. As of now, however, Levi's Stadium is the clear frontrunner. Santa Clara sits about 40 miles south of San Francisco. The new stadium, which will open in August with an expected capacity of 68,500, will host two college football games this season: Oregon-Cal on Oct. 24 and the Fight Hunger Bowl in late December. It will host Super Bowl L in 2016.
One source said there remains concern whether Pac-12 fans will make the trip to a neutral site in large numbers. The league originally opted for home sites when it expanded to 12 teams in 2011 in large part to alleviate that concern.