Pac-12 football is moving into the major leagues, and the Bay Area will be a direct beneficiary.
According to multiple reports, the Pac-12 will announce today (Thursday) that it will hold its conference championship game at the new Levi Stadium in Santa Clara next season.
Having the game at the new 68,500-seat 49ers stadium that is scheduled to be completed in August will give the Pac-12 an opportunity to promote the game as a major event. In the first three years that the Pac-12 held a championship game between the winners of the North and South divisions, the game was played at the home site of the participating team with the better record. By putting the game at a neutral, predetermined venue, the Pac-12 is stating that the game itself is big enough that it will draw a sizable crowd without being at the home site of one of the participants. In doing so, the Pac-12 joins the SEC, Big 10 and Atlantic Coast Conference as conferences that hold their football title game at a neutral site.
The 2014 Pac-12 title game is scheduled to be played on Friday, Dec. 5.
It is is unclear whether the Pac-12 title game will be held at Levi Stadium for the next several years or for just one year in 2014. But, in any case, it would be a distinct advantage for Cal or Stanford if either were to get into the Pac-12 title game. The Bears remain a long shot to get there, based on their 0-9 conference record in Sonny Dykes first season as a head coach. But the Cardinal have played in the Pac-12 title game each of the past two seasons, and seem to be in position to challenge for a spot in the championship game again. Levi Stadium would provide a convenient destination for Cal or Stanford fans if either team gets to the title game.
The Pac-12 had been discussing for some time the possibility of playing the championship game at Levi Stadium, but things came together more quickly than expected.
Levi Stadium will also be the site of the postseason college bowl game (the Fight Hunger Bowl) that had been held at San Francisco's AT&T Park since 2002.