San Francisco 49ers games won't be the only ones played in Santa Clara this fall, as the Pac-12 is set to announce it will be moving its football championship game to the new Levi's Stadium beginning in 2014.
After adding Colorado and Utah prior to the 2011 season, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott opted for an NFL playoffs approach to the championship game by awarding it to the team with the best league record at the end of the season. The move went against some of the conventional wisdom at the time as most conferences (including the SEC, ACC and Big Ten) had adopted a neutral site location for their football championship game.
While the game was considered a success for the league overall, logistical issues and a difficulty in selling tickets to fans who didn't know where the game would be proved to be too much of a challenge. The presence of a technologically advanced facility with luxury suites in the Bay Area -- and, no doubt, a nice paycheck -- seems to have made the decision to find a permanent home easy for Pac-12 officials.
Other NFL stadiums in the Pac-12 footprint were also reportedly considered, including Seattle and Phoenix, but Levi's Stadium was long thought to be the likely landing spot to host the championship game. The Bay Area is also home to the conference's offices and is a major city with a large number of alumni from all 12 schools. While the stadium will primarily be the spot for 49ers games in the fall, it will also be the site of the Fight Hunger Bowl starting in 2014 and will see its first-ever college football game on October 24th, when Oregon takes on California.
Attendance is likely to be one of the biggest drawbacks to the new event. While two of the three Pac-12 title games were near sellouts, Stanford played host to a small crowd in 2012 as a rain-soaked kickoff at 5 p.m. on a Friday put a damper on the festivities.
The 2014 Pac-12 Football Championship Game is scheduled for Friday, December 5th.