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Pac-12 schools expected to cash in on deal with Levi's Stadium

Eric Risberg/Associated Press
The Pac-12 football champion will be crowned at Levi's Stadium in its inaugural year.

After weeks of speculation, the Pac-12 finally announced last week that it would be holding the conference's football championship game at Levi's Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers.

The move put the Pac-12 on equal footing with the SEC, ACC and Big Ten in terms of having a neutral-site championship game, but immediately brought about concerns over fan attendance and travel. For school presidents that approved the three-year deal, however, the potential financial gains of the deal apparently were too good to pass up.

Pac-12 programs could come away with as much as a $1 million each from the new arrangement, according to The San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner.

"I have yet to pin down the specific financial benefit of moving the (championship game) to Levi's, but (Pac-12 commissioner Larry) Scott could never have sold it to the presidents were it a money-losing proposition," Wilner wrote. "My best guess is that the deal with the 49ers and increased revenue from sponsors will add $1 million per school per year."

That's a lot of dough, especially as programs across the conference ramp up spending in order to compete with SEC and Big Ten teams.

Wilner notes that rising costs from facilities upgrades and a forthcoming stipend for student-athletes could mean athletic departments are on the hook for as much as $750,000 a year starting in 2015. Thus, the deal with the 49ers came about sooner rather than later.

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Levi's Stadium will certainly be one of the more impressive venues in the country when it opens for games this fall. While it will serve mainly as home to 49ers games, team and stadium brass certainly want the facility to have a year-round presence in a manner similar to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The prime location in the Bay Area and lucrative revenue opportunities the technologically advanced stadium present seemed to make a lot of sense in the college football world. The stadium will host its first non-49ers game on Oct. 24, when Oregon takes on Cal, and will host the Fight Hunger Bowl in December.

"Scott told me last week that the conference wouldn't have veered away from the home-hosting if not for the chance to play the (conference championship game) at Levi's in the stadium's inaugural year," Wilner wrote. "It was too good a venue ... too grand a stage ... to pass up given how valuable the title game is to the conference's TV package and relationship with sponsors."

For fans and TV partners, it will certainly be a good thing to know where the Pac-12 championship game is being played in years to come instead of guessing late in the season.

For those that have to worry about budgets at each Pac-12 school, the extra income the game will provide is sure to be more than worth it, as well.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.

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