Mountain West Is Considering Going To Neutral Site Conference Championship Game
Should the title game go away from campus?
Las Vegas or Los Angeles is being considered.
The Mountain West football championship has been played at the home of the higher-rated team since 2013.
Now, there are some rumblings during Mountain West media days that the new NFL stadiums in Las Vegas or Los Angeles could be the home for a conference title game.
First off, the Pac-12 just signed a deal to play in the new Raiders stadium in Las Vegas in 2020 and 2021, that alone would make it tricky to play a title game there.
“My understanding is they (Pac-12) have a Friday or Saturday, and I don’t know who would make that decision,” Thompson said via the Las Vegas-Review Journal. “Now let’s make a presumption that several of those years the Raiders will be home on Sunday, so do they want a Friday and a Saturday.”
Yeah, playing three games in three days in what will be a natural grass field is not fair to any of the teams. Just take a look at Heinz Field that hosts both Pitt and the Pittsburgh Steelers, that field is a mess late in the year.
However, if the Mountain West wants to give the best chance for a team to make a New Year’s Six game, why not allow for the higher-rated team to get home-field advantage?
“What we have to determine as a league first and foremost is the value of giving that divisional champion the opportunity to play at home and get to a New Year’s Eve (bowl), so if you go to a neutral field, you’ve taken that away from them. I don’t know where we’ll fall out. We’ve had cursory conversations. You’ve got two state-of-the-art NFL facilities, and do we want to look at a neutral field?”
Those are good points to consider and playing in a brand-new NFL stadium has its perks but are they worth it.
Going to a neutral site game removes home-field advantage thus making it more difficult for the better team to get to the coveted bowl game. Also, the crowd size could take a hit if playing this game in Las Vegas or Los Angeles. Both are warm and destination cities in the first week of December but how many fans will realistically travel for this one game.
Just look at the MAC title game which has been played at Ford Field since 2004 and the average attendance is 19,281 with a high of 45,615 when Western Michigan on track for a New Year’s Six bowl game. Overall, it has been poorly attended with nine games with attendance under 20,000.
That type of attendance is a bad look on television and the Mountain West might fare a bit better than the MAC but it would not be all that better in most years.
The smart move would be to keep the game at the home field of the higher-rated team. Also, Las Vegas should be ruled out with the Pac-12 taking its title game there and Los Angeles is not close to many schools in the league and attendance there could be even worse unless San Diego State or UNLV make the game as they are a reasonable drive away.
Money could be a factor for the Mountain West to consider playing its title game in an NFL stadium but it probably is not going to be worth it in the long run.