Pac-12 football mulls move to neutral site championship game

Pac-12 football title game site has been awarded to team with best record.

So much for Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott's brave, some would say brilliant, decision to hold his league's annual football championship game at the site of the team with the best record.

I liked Scott's idea when he first proposed it to a small group of reporters in 2009 shortly after he replaced Tom Hansen as Pac-12 commissioner.

Scott's idea was to implement an NFL-type system in which the best team was rewarded with home-field advantage.

Apparently, though, the league may opt for a neutral-site game as soon as next season.

It appears Scott's counterintuitive thinking is falling victim to the "Pac" mentality of the other three power conferences that host at neutral site games (the 10-team Big 12 does not host a championship game).

Scott confirmed to media outlets at this week's Pac 12 meetings in Phoenix that his league is considering a permanent title venue in the new Levi Stadium in Santa Clara.

Conference presidents would ultimately have to approve such a proposed move.

According to reports, some Pac-12 schools reported difficulty in preparing for a title game on such short notice.

The first three title games have been held on the campuses of Oregon, Stanford and Arizona State.

The first Pac-12 title game in Eugene was a sellout and last year's game between Stanford and Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium drew an impressive 69,535.

The middle game, UCLA at Stanford, drew only 31,622 in Palo Alto. Both those schools have historically weak fan bases.

Stanford has been so fan-strapped it replaced a stadium that once hosted a Super Bowl to a cozier venue that now seats about 50,000.

Neutral site games in the Pac-12, however, pose a risk. One appealing aspect of the home-field advantage plan was that it increased the chances of well-attended games. The Pac-12, unlike the Southeastern Conference, does not have a rich tradition of mobile fan bases.

The Pac-12 basketball tournament was an annual attendance disaster at Staples Center and has since been moved to Las Vegas. That move worked because Las Vegas provided the alluring secondary entertainment option of legal gambling.

Hey, even legal-aged hoopsters liked the idea of playing blackjack in their offiical university apparel.

It seems highly doubtful, however, that football fans would annually fill a cavernous new football stadium in the Bay Area.

Can you imagine UCLA at Stanford in an even bigger stadium?

The Pac-12 is already facing an uncertain attendance future as it surrenders the Rose Bowl to a national semifinal game in the first year of the four-team College Football Playoff.

Unless a Pac-12 team earns a top seeding and placement in Pasadena, the Rose Bowl could possibly host Oklahoma vs. Alabama or even a rematch of Florida State vs. Auburn.

The difference is fans of those schools must decide whether to lay out money for the semifinal trip or save up for a possible trip to the national title game at AT&T Stadium in Texas.

The Rose Bowl has long prided itself on Jan. 1 sellouts but that tradition may get tested this year.

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