ERIC RISBERG, AP
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah won’t get a chance to host the Pac-12 Football Championship Game, at least not for the next three years.
Conference officials announced Thursday that the annual title tilt between the North and South division champions will be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, the new $1.2 billion home of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.
The first three Pac-12 championship games were played at home stadiums instead of a neutral site.
Although the agreement means that Rice-Eccles Stadium is out of the loop — at least for the contract period — Utah athletics director Dr. Chris Hill acknowledged it's a good move for the conference.
"I think it is a trade-off. As in anything I think what we're trying to do is find out what's best for our league," Hill said. "We've had some home hosts and they've been very good but there's been a few challenges with people getting there and the neutral-site situation."
Hill added that they'll see how things work out at Levi's Stadium, which he noted seems really good right now, and evaluate it as a league.
"As the presidents met and got the information from (Pac-12 commissioner) Larry (Scott) and we all talked about it, I think they thought the timing would be right with this new stadium to see how it worked with building the brand that's a neutral site and in a big, big, big-time stadium with all the new amenities," Hill said.
Scott heralded the move in a released statement.
“Pac-12 football is among the deepest and best football conferences in the country,” Scott said. “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.”
The 2014 game is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 5. Levi’s Stadium opens this season and will also host the Fight Hunger Bowl. The 68,500-seat venue is the site of Super Bowl L in 2016.
“The Pac-12 has a tremendous following in the Bay Area, which makes Levi’s Stadium a fitting host for its marquee game,” Jed York, chief executive officer of the San Francisco 49ers, said in the official announcement. “We are excited to provide Pac-12 student-athletes, and their fans from across the region, an unparalleled experience for their football championship."
Tickets go on sale to Pac-12 team season-ticket holders and donors on May 19. The general public can buy them beginning May 23.
In addition to the game, the Pac-12 plans to conduct an innovation summit featuring leaders from member universities and the technology industry.
“This is a positive move for our institutions and fan bases,” Scott continued. “The neutral-site location will allow us to showcase the conference, our member institutions and important initiatives on a big stage, as well as treat fans to multiple events during championship week.”
The first three Pac-12 title games were played at Oregon, Stanford and Arizona State, respectively.
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