The Pac-12 Conference’s football championship game is getting a new home.
It will be played at the NFL’s new Las Vegas Stadium during the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott announced Wednesday.
The stadium, which will host the NFL Raiders upon their relocation from Oakland, will reportedly seat 65,000 fans and cost $1.9 billion, with a projected opening date of August 2020.
“It is truly state of the art in every respect,” Scott said. “It’ll be convenient. It’s right off the Strip, close to the airport and it’s going to be a fantastic destination for football fans to enjoy the best of Pac-12 football in our championship game.”
Scott said the conference would evaluate the possibility of playing games at the Rams’ new stadium in Inglewood in future seasons.
The conference also announced that the Los Angeles Bowl, matching a Pac-12 team against a Mountain West team, will be played in the new stadium beginning in 2020.
Las Vegas had already become something of a hub for the conference in recent seasons by hosting the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
Las Vegas Stadium will also host the 2020 Las Vegas Bowl, which will pit a Pac-12 team against an opponent from the Southeastern or Big Ten Conference as part of a reformatted arrangement.
The Pac-12’s 2019 championship game will be held Dec. 6 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, where it has been staged since 2014.
Scott announced four changes to the Pac-12’s football officiating structure as a result of a four-month review conducted by an independent consulting company.
The conference’s head of officiating will report directly to Scott rather than a football administrator. A new replay manual will be used to classify procedures in an attempt to eliminate another incident like the one during last season’s game between USC and Washington State, when a football administrator intervened during the replay of a targeting call.
There will also be enhancements to training programs for officials as well as more consistency in grading and training from the officiating supervisors.
Lastly, a new communications protocol will be implemented with more transparency and public comment around significant calls or errors that either affect player safety or the result of the game. Scott said the Pac-12 would monitor the SEC’s new Twitter account for its officials that’s intended to help explain rules and calls as a possible model for its teams.
“We are committed to excellence, being the best we can be,” Scott said, “and ensuring that our officiating program continues to improve and is as strong as possible.”
UCLA coach Chip Kelly said he was all for increased transparency, though it comes with certain limitations.
“They’re not taking a call back,” Kelly said. “I don’t know how that makes anybody feel better, to be honest with you. To me it pours a little more salt in the wounds with, yeah, we missed that call. All right. We still lost the game.”
Utah was selected as the favorite to win the Pac-12 in a vote of media members.
The Utes received 12 votes, edging Oregon (11) and defending conference champion Washington (10). Utah also received 33 first-place votes as the favorite in the Pac-12’s South Division, ahead of second-place USC (two first-place votes). UCLA and Arizona State were in a third-place tie, ahead of Arizona and Colorado.
Oregon was picked to win the North Division with 190 points, a tick ahead of Washington (189). Stanford was projected to finish third, followed by Washington State, California and Oregon State.
The media have correctly selected the conference champion in 31 of 58 previous polls but only four times in the last 12 seasons. The Los Angeles Times does not vote in media polls, per newspaper policy.
USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and defensive lineman Jay Tufele were selected to the preseason Pac-12 all-conference first team. Trojans wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and defensive lineman Christian Rector were second-team all-conference selections, along with UCLA cornerback Darnay Holmes.
Scott said the conference was “very clearly opposed” to the pay-for-play system proposed by California legislators that would financially compensate the state’s athletes for their participation in college sports. The commissioner added that the NCAA was exploring ways to reward players for the use of their name, image and likeness that would be directly linked to their education but not part of a pay-for-play arrangement. “Anything that looks like pay for play or compensation to student-athletes that’s not related to their education,” Scott said, “is something that would run counter to the fundamental nature of collegiate athletics and amateur student-athletes.” … The Pac-12 has agreed to an extension with the Alamo Bowl to take the conference’s top team after its placements in New Year’s Six bowls to play against a top team from the Big 12 Conference.