December 2019 will be the last time the Pac-12 Championship Game will be played at Levi’s Stadium, at least for the foreseeable future. After a five year partnership, the Pac-12 and the 49ers, who manage Levi’s Stadium, have decided to end their partnership. Both sides have decided to opt out of the final year (2020) of the agreement.
A joint statement released by the 49ers and the Pac-12 said in part, “Both organizations have deeply enjoyed their partnership throughout the years and look forward working closely on this year’s Championship Game, while continuing to discuss the future of the game.”
While neither side has said as much, attendance could have been a factor in the decision. Levi’s Stadium is considered at full capacity with 68,500 people. The 2018 Pac-12 Championship Game between the Washington Huskies and the Utah Utes had an attendance of just over 35,000 people, about 52 percent of capacity.
In 2017, the Championship Game between the USC Trojans and the Stanford Cardinal saw a crowd of over 48,000, about 71 percent of capacity. With Stanford just 14 miles away from Levi’s Stadium, the turnout was likely much lower than anticipated.
So far there is no word of where the 2020 Pac-12 Championship Game will be held, but you can be sure the Pac-12 is exploring multiple options. As the joint statement pointed out, “At the time the partnership was announced [in 2017] both parties agreed to leave open the option for the Conference to explore other new venues that would become available throughout the region.”
Other options for the game include Las Vegas where the Raiders are building a new stadium or Los Angeles where the future home of the Rams and Chargers is expected to open in the summer of 2020.
The Pac-12 could also return to the format it had before signing with Levi’s Stadium and play the Championship Game at the home stadium of one of the two teams involved.
The Pac-12 began holding a championship game to determine the conference winner in 2011. In 2014, it signed a three-year deal with the 49ers to host the game in a neutral location — Levi’s Stadium. A new, two-year agreement was signed in 2017 with an optional third year (2020) if both parties agreed.
Even though the sides have decided to opt out of the optional third year, it’s still possible that a new agreement could be signed and the 2020 game could be held at Levi’s Stadium.
The Pac-12 has not indicated when an announcement for the location of the 2020 game will be made, but if previous announcements are anything to go on, it will likely be announced leading up to or at the 2019 Pac-12 Championship Game.