Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pac-12 Should Makes Its Move to Levi's

Larry Scott is mulling a move to put the Pac-12 football championship game at Levi's Stadium.

To borrow a phrase from the benefactor of one Pac-12 powerhouse: Just Do It.

The Pac-12 commissioner told Pete Thamel of via a text message on Thursday that, after three years of hosting on campus sites, the conference is considering a neutral site for its championship game.

Levi's Stadium, the 49ers' new home in Santa Clara, Calif., could host the game as soon as the upcoming season on Dec. 5.

It just makes too much sense.

After expanding to 12 teams in 2011, the Pac-12 has been staging its title games on the campus stadium of the team with the best regular-season record. The results have been a haphazard mess, with swaths of empty seats and schools scrambling to get tickets sold on short notice. As a result, the game severely lacked the profile of the SEC title game, held annually in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

The move to Levi's Stadium would remedy nearly all the problems that have plagued the game thus far, so let's count the ways:

* Once the site is chosen, the conference can sell tickets for the game year-round and gain additional revenue from Levi's Stadium's 165 suites and 9,000 club seats. Currently, the hosting institution has only a few days to distribute tickets and most campus stadiums have only a small number of suites and boxes.

* Levi's Stadium is a state-of-the-art facility and the most wired one in the country, befitting its location in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Hosting a game there will immediately give the Pac-12 a high profile for its championship game, especially in the stadium's inaugural season.

* The Bay Area is the geographic center of the Pac-12 conference, with two schools located there and a short, non-stop flight from the rest of the campuses. And it's home to large alumni bases for nearly all conference schools.

* The conference, with its headquarters in Walnut Creek and San Francisco, will have the benefit of being able to easily manage the event from the build-up to the actual game. A Pac-12 game between Oregon and Cal will be played at Levi's Stadium on Oct. 24, allowing the conference to study the logistics in a live-game setting.

Scott has already made a bold move by relocating the conference basketball tournament to Las Vegas two years ago. It has been an unqualified success, with huge fan support and sold-out championship games as opposed to the half-empty Staples Center where the event was held for more than a decade.

With that in his back pocket, moving the football title game shouldn't be a tough sell to the conference's school presidents, who will ultimately vote on the decision at their annual meeting in June. As the Pac-12 tries to gain a foothold in the brave new world of College Football Playoff, the relaunching of its title game would be a nice start.

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