At the 2017 Pac-12 Football Media Days, the conference announced an extension to their previous agreement to host the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The extension meant that the 2018 and 2019 games would be played at Levi’s Stadium. It also included an option for 2020.
Well, it appears that both the conference and the San Francisco 49ers have opted to decline that option.
Yesterday, it was announced that the agreement is being terminated after the 2019 game. That doesn’t mean the game can’t return there, but it probably means that the conference wants to explore its options to host the game in either the new Raiders’ stadium in Las Vegas or the new stadium in Inglewood which will be the home of both the Rams and the Chargers.
Personally, I expect the game to head to Vegas for a few reasons. First, the conference already has a presence in the city with the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament having moved there from LA in 2013.
The second reason is the fact that Larry Scott is still Pac-12 commissioner. Scott has shown a penchant for “going big.” After a few years of having the school with the best record host the game, Scott decided to move the game to the then-brand new Levi’s Stadium in 2014. But, attendance broke 50,000 just once and this past season’s game saw just over 35,000 fans attend the game.
So, Scott is going to try to find a way to increase attendance by relocating the game, thinking that he can recreate the attendance growth the conference has seen for the men’s basketball tournament by placing the football championship game in the same city.
Of course, what Scott doesn’t realize is that a three-day event like the basketball tournaments and a one-day event like the football championship game are totally different animals. All twelve basketball teams make the tournament. So, fans can book their travel plans in advance and take advantage of discounts for booking arrangements early.
The football championship game, on the other hand, is a event between just two of the twelve schools and it’s rare that fans know that their team is heading to the game far enough in advance to take advantage of travel discounts.
Of course, Vegas is close enough to the LA area that if UCLA or Southern Cal make the game, fans can opt to drive to Vegas if they can’t get a cheap enough airfare.
But, the same can’t be said for the North Division schools. This year’s North representative wasn’t known until the Apple Cup game was decided. Will Washington or Washington State fans pay top dollar to fly to Vegas for a Friday night football game? Well, based on the total attendance at this year’s game in Santa Clara, Huskies fans apparently didn’t make the trip to Santa Clara this year.
So, what exactly makes Larry Scott think those fans will fly to Vegas on a moment’s notice?
A Saturday game might make a trip like that more palatable, but that would mean that Scott would have to “get tough” with ESPN and Fox and force them to carry the game on Saturday. In other words, it’s about as likely to happen as a deal with DirecTV.
The most logically feasible solution is to return hosting duties to the school with the best overall conference record. In the three games hosted by the school with the best record, the attendance at two of the games exceeded the best attendance at Levi’s Stadium. B
But, Scott likes to “go big.” So, that means returning the championship game to a school host is also about as likely as a deal with DirecTV. He will certainly take the game to either Vegas or the new stadium in Inglewood.
This leaves Pac-12 football fans asking the obvious question: When will the Pac-12 Presidents and Chancellors finally fire Larry Scott and start fixing the conference’s issues in football and basketball?