PAC-12 commissioner Larry Scott will make an official announcement Thursday that this year's title game will be played at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California on December 5. ESPN is speculating the new location will be site for the PAC-12’s future conference title games.
With the PAC-12 heading for a neutral site, only the MWC and the MAC of all FBS leagues will continue to use the system whereby the division champions hold the title games in the stadium of the champion with the better record. In 2013, the MWC held its inaugural championship game in Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, California, where Western Division champion #24 Fresno State beat Mountain Division champion Utah State, 24-17.
Why should we keep the present model?
The home-hosting model adopted by the Mountain West appears it will serve the league very well into the future. It seems to be a good fit for the fans and so far has fostered the kind of exciting atmosphere the conference hoped to attain. From a revenue standpoint using the home site of the top-ranked MW team hosting the championship allows that university and its host city to profit from its success. The additional ticket sales, the influx of cash from visitors that utilize hotel and other tourist services, and the fans who crowd the local restaurant facilities are huge. For those reasons alone some MW members my balk at threats to any changes.
Then there would be the additional expenses in the form of transportation costs and expenditures to house and feed the players and the staff to consider. It would cause the fan bases of both teams to take to the road.
Why should we consider making the switch?
It might create more revenue to set up a grand stage setting for the conference. A fixed location for the title game could be a valuable asset to the conference. It would also enhance the television package and would solidify and create a long-term relationship with sponsors.
With a fixed location everyone associated with the conference, from the Networks to the MW fan base, would know when and where the game will be played. Fans would be able to plan their vacations, reservations and transportation well in advance, much as MW fans are able to do for the annual basketball tournament. Since 2006, that venue has been held in Las Vegas.
Another reason to veer away from the home-hosting model is what could happen in future years. Suppose last year either New Mexico or SJSU would have hosted the championship game against each other? It is easy to visualize the embarrassment of a MW championship game in a near-empty stadium on nation television.
A switch to a neutral site for a MW championship game does not come without a certain set of problems. There would be the need for a suitable stadium that would be in a central location within the conference area. A location like the Phoenix area in Arizona would be ideal, or perhaps a location in either Los Angles or Oregon would be suitable. There are a few stadiums out there that would welcome the chance to host a conference championship game.
Is it necessary that the Mountain West copycat or make changes just to keep pace with ideas generated by other conferences? No, but we should always be aware of new ideas and keep our options and possibilities open.