Dec 7, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; The Pac-12 logo is displayed prior to the game between the Arizona State Sun Devils against the Stanford Cardinal at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Pac-12 is currently one of only two of the “big-five” conferences to have the higher ranking team (in-conference) host its championship game. After Day 1 of Pac-12 Spring meetings in Pheonix, AZ the conference is seriously considering joining the Big-12, ACC and SEC Conferences in a neutral-site championship game. The Big Ten is the other ‘major’ conference that has it’s highest ranking team host the game.
The 49ers and Levi Strauss & Co have reached an agreement for a $220 million, 20-year naming rights deal for the team’s future stadium in Santa Clara. The stadium will be called, Levi’s Stadium.(photo credit: AP Photo/San Francisco 49ers, File)
At this juncture, the game would be moved to the 49ers’ brand new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. Not all the coaches are in full agreement that it’s the best thing for the conference but the majority seem in favor of the move, in particular Mike Leach, who told CBSSports.com’s Jeremy Fowler: “I just think it would be better for the conference and better for the fans. Nobody had terribly strong feelings …”
While I think this is a good idea overall for the Pac-12 Conference and that eventually every coach will enjoy the move as a whole, I have my reservations about moving the game strictly to Levi’s Stadium because while it represents a central site, the game doesn’t necessarily represent a true “neutral” site. Considering that three of the past four championship participants have been from the state of California, this becomes particularly evident. In part, that’s why the Pac-12 basketball championships were moved to Las Vegas and why the football championship was originally setup as it currently stands.
Personally I think a rotating championship would be a neat thought. In my wish-list model, games would rotate between three of the best stadiums in the NFL; Levi’s Stadium, Century Link Field at Seahawks Stadium and University of Pheonix Stadium, which hosts the Arizona Cardinals.
A three year rotation would be awesome and give each region an opportunity to host a game. The other thing it accomplishes is giving each team an opportunity to earn “home-field-advantage” one out of every three years which is more fair in my opinion. Of course the drawback is if two Cali-teams make the championship game on a year when it is either in Seattle or Pheonix (inevitably infuriating a whole herd of Californian’s), but it’s really no different than if Arizona State and Washington State earned their way in and ended up having to travel to Santa Barbara.
*Before you laugh at the thought of Washington State over Washington in the championship game simply because we’re a Cougar blog, consider that both the Cougs and Dawgs have each earned at least a share of the Pac-12 title twice since 1995, WSU being the last one to do it in 2002. Just a shameless plug for our school, thought I realize that Oregon and Stanford fans are still laughing hysterically at the thought of either team taking the North anytime soon. Back to thoughts on the game itself…
It’s still better than having to be the only team to travel from one far-reach of the conference to the other on short notice. Not to mention the issues that come with hosting such a game on short notice and on a short week (Pac-12 Championship is currently played on Friday nights for television), in particular at a small campus and community like Washington State’s, should they ever again reign supreme atop the North.
Of course even a three-year rotating schedule is not necessarily just that easy. Each community and city would have to come up with the allocated funds, available resources and a plan to host the games on schedule, not to mention a whole lot of variables have to be considered as they always do in these instances. For example the 49ers are exploring options for including championship game tickets in their season ticket packages.
That’s all easier to do with one stadium in a central location, I get it, but it seems like an intriguing opportunity for all three regions of the Pac-12 to take part in what is quickly becoming one of the most lucrative events in all of college sports, especially with the College Football Playoff being introduced.
All three stadiums are more than capable, the Cards and Niners are each going to host a Super Bowl in the near future and Seattle has hosted a somewhat recent MLB All-Star Game. It’s a very interesting thought if nothing else but any move to a ‘more-neutral’ location is better for the conference regardless. Is this something the conference should consider? Sound off with your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.
[H/T: Pac-12 blog at ESPN]