Pac-12 and Levi's Stadium opt out of having 2020 title game in Santa Clara

Yahoo Sports
USC and Stanford played in the 2017 Pac-12 Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium. (Getty)
USC and Stanford played in the 2017 Pac-12 Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium. (Getty)

The era of the Pac-12 Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara appears to be coming to an end. The conference said in a statement Friday that it wouldn’t pick up the option in its contract to have the game at the home of the San Francisco 49ers in 2020.

“The Pac-12 Conference and Levi’s Stadium have agreed to opt out of the final year (2020) of the agreement to hold the Pac-12 Championship Game at the venue.

“At the time the partnership was announced both parties agreed to leave open the option for the Conference to explore other new venues that would become available throughout the region.

“Both organizations have deeply enjoyed their partnership throughout the years and look forward to working closely on this year’s Championship Game, while continuing to discuss the future of the game.”

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The Pac-12 Championship Game has existed since 2011, when the conference expanded to 12 teams with the addition of Utah and Colorado. The first three iterations of the game were played on campus sites (Oregon, Stanford and Arizona State) before it moved to Levi’s Stadium when the stadium opened in 2014.

The 2019 game will be the sixth at the stadium. The first game in Santa Clara between Oregon and Arizona drew over 45,000 announced fans. Attendance spiked the next year to over 58,000 announced fans with Stanford’s appearance against USC. But it fell back below 50,000 listed fans for the next two seasons and cratered in 2018. Washington’s 10-3 win over Utah had just 35,000 fans.

And that number may be generous.

Levi’s Stadium also hosted the 2019 National Championship Game between Clemson and Alabama. Ticket sales for that game were much more brisk, though the distance from the San Jose area and Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Clemson, South Carolina, didn’t help the secondary ticket market. 

Where does the Pac-12 go from here?

Like it did with Levi’s Stadium in 2014, expect the Pac-12 to find a city that has a new football stadium. And there are two cities within the league’s footprint that are prepping new football stadiums. Los Angeles’ new NFL stadium for the Rams and Chargers is set to open in 2020, the same year as the new Las Vegas Stadium for the Oakland Raiders is expected to be ready.

What’s the better option between the two? Los Angeles has USC and UCLA nearby, though that only helps if one of the two teams is representing the South division in the title game. Las Vegas has no local team, but encouraging fans to travel for a weekend in Vegas isn’t an argument that has to be made that persuasively.

It would also help the Pac-12 if the conference regularly had teams contending for the College Football Playoff. Only Oregon in 2014 and Washington in 2016 have made the playoff in its five years of existence.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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