WALNUT CREEK -- The Pac-12 Conference will stage its annual Football Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. for the next three years, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott announced Thursday. The first Pac-12 Football Championship Game will take place on Friday, Dec. 5, and will feature the Pac-12 North champion versus the Pac-12 South champion.
“We think this move to Levi’s Stadium will elevate our championship to another level,” Scott stated.
The move to a neutral site follows three years of playing the game at one of its participants' home stadiums, and gives the conference the opportunity to host its biggest game in a state-of-the-art stadium.
“Pac-12 football is among the deepest and best football conferences in the country,” said Scott. “Our Football Championship Game is important for selecting a team for the Rose Bowl and possibly the College Football Playoff, and we are thrilled to offer student-athletes and their fans the ultimate venue to culminate a successful season.”
Scott said last week that the league was mulling whether to move its championship game to the 68,500-seat, $1.2 billion stadium that opens this year. The first three conference championship games have been held in the stadium of the division champion with the best conference record — Oregon in 2011, Stanford in 2012 and Arizona State last year.
In previous years, Scott had noted the challenges in staging the championship game at a host school when the site — not to mention the teams — often isn't known until a week before the game. He also has acknowledged concern from school presidents about the travel demands that fans would face if teams in the far-flung conference — which stretches from Washington to Arizona — would have to travel to get to Santa Clara, which is about 15 miles from the Stanford campus and just across the bay from Berkeley.
“When we were selling suites and tickets, this was hands-down the No. 1 event fans were asking about,” 49ers CEO Jed York said of the Pac-12 title game. “We’re very excited to be able to do something exciting for our universities. This can be the bedrock for innovation in college sports. You’re going to see a great example this year … and we hope to continue it for many years to come.”
The 49ers also have been trying to fill dates at the new stadium, getting Cal to host Oregon there this fall. The 49ers will play their first game at Levi's Stadium on Aug. 17, 2014 in an exhibition against the Denver Broncos.
The NFL already has awarded the stadium the 50th Super Bowl to be played in February 2016.
Pac-12 and Associated Press media services contributed to this report