For now, it's a dream. But Utah football fans long for that day when they can watch their team duke out a Pac-12 foe for the conference title in ... Santa Clara?
That's what the conference is discussing this week, according to Sports Illustrated. Pete Thamel, Stewart Mandel and Lindsay Schnell were first to report that Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott confirmed that the conference could move the title game to a neutral venue such as Levi Stadium, the newly constructed home of the San Francisco 49ers.
If the Pac-12 chooses to adopt the neutral site, the two division champs would play there on Dec. 5 of this year, replacing the current structure in which the team with the best record hosts the game at home.
The Pac-12 presidents and chancellors ultimately decide whether they'll move forward with the new format in their meetings in June. But is it a good idea?
Upon announcing the formation of the title game four years ago, commissioner Larry Scott hailed the NFL-style approach because it:
• Rewarded the team with the best record
• Added value to the regular season
• Reduced travel costs for he fans of at least one team
• Created an exciting atmosphere
After three title games, not much has changed.
Yes, the atmosphere for the '12 game at Stanford was awful, but that was largely because of the timing (Friday night) and weather (torrential rain). And the short turnaround has caused logistical issues for the host school.
But otherwise, the atmospheres in Eugene and Tempe were better than they would have been for neutral-site games.
In fact, I'm struggling to figure out why the conference would make the change.
Using that tidy summary as a jumping-off point, it is a bit curious as to why the Pac-12 would want to make the permanent site its home for the championship. It may have something to do with how well fans have traveled to Vegas for the Pac-12 basketball tournament, or maybe it merely is a desire to move the game to a somewhat median location in the coast with plenty of different fan bases around.
Regarding the logistics: It can be very tough to sell tickets with a week long turnaround and scramble together everything necessary to host a big game. But either way, ticket sales are going to be tough, especially if fans have to travel. There's a segment of fans who will simply save their money for the bowl game and skip the conference championship if it's distance-prohibitive.
Gauging some of my Utes followers, there seems to be an interest in rotating the location of the neutral-site game between North and South division locations, such as Phoenix. Since the Bay Area is pretty much Stanford/Cal country, maybe it would be more fair to have a switch every other year.
Other people are fine shelling out the cash to go wherever the conference championship game is. Others would like the chance to host it at Rice-Eccles.
It's an intriguing issue that has a few sides to it. If you have an opinion, chime in with a comment.
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