2013 SEC Championship Game. Photo: USA Today Sports

Ideal conference championship sites for each conference

The Pac-12 is reportedly considering moving its conference championship game to a neutral field, ditching the hard-fought home-field advantage method once a new stadium for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers is completed. San Francisco makes financial sense for the Pac-12 and it is about as centrally located as you can get, but is the Bay Area really the best possible destination for the Pac-12 if the conference is going to go with a neutral site plan, or are there other more worthy host sites to explore?

The Big Ten announced it will be taking the men’s basketball tournament to Washington D.C., which just seems odd considering the conference has long-established a championship home in Chicago and Indianapolis. Where exactly is the best possible championship site for the Big Ten in football? What about other conferences? The SEC seems like a perfect fit in Atlanta, but does the ACC have it right in Charlotte? If (when) the Big 12 goes back to a championship game, is Arlington, Texas the clear winner or is a return to Kansas City or St. Louis in order?

Here are the best championship game sites for each conference, including hypothetical championship game sites for any conferences with no conference championship game in 2014..

ACC

In 2014: Charlotte, North Carolina

Best Possible Site: Charlotte, North Carolina

The ACC will keep the conference championship game in Charlotte through the 2019 season, and that may actually be the best plan of action for the conference. Charlotte offers a great host venue at Bank of America Stadium and the city is located about as close to the middle of the expanding conference footprint as you can get. If Atlanta is off the table, then Charlotte is the next best bet for the ACC.

American

In 2015: Undetermined

Best Possible Site: Memphis, Tennessee

The American will be adding a conference championship game in 2015 once Navy joins as a football-playing member. For financial reasons, the conference’s best bet may be to keep the game played on a home-campus site, but if it is a neutral site game the conference wishes to pull off, there are some options to work with. A trip to Memphis for a championship game played in the Liberty Bowl seems like a decent fit for a conference that has moved southward with recent expansion without making travel for the more northern conference members to cumbersome. Orlando and the Citrus Bowl, with renovations, could be worth exploring. There would be no NFL scheduling conflicts at either.

Big 12

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

No conference championship game

Best Possible Site: Arlington, Texas

The Big 12 is sitting on 10 members and will wait to see how the College Football Playoff system is affected by conference championship games before rushing to any decision to expand or file for a waiver to play a championship game with fewer than 12 members. But this is a no-brainer. If the Big 12 ever goes back to a conference championship game model, a return to Jerry World outside of Dallas is the obvious destination.

Big Ten

In 2014: Indianapolis, Indiana

Best Possible Site: Indianapolis, Indiana

This one may come down to how strongly you feel the Big Ten should play its championship game outside in the elements. If you prefer the Big Ten t play outside, then Chicago is the best option. However, the Big Ten has a pretty good thing going in Indianapolis with a roof over the playing surface. Given the location of Indianapolis, it also makes the most sense for the Big Ten even with an eastward expansion. But with the conference moving the men’s basketball championship to Washington D.C. for a year and expanding into the coveted New York market and with a relationship with the Pinstripe Bowl, a future game in MetLife Stadium or FedEx Field may not be unlikely at some point. The conference has no long-term plans for any one location.

Conference USA

In 2014: On campus

Best Possible Site: New Orleans, Louisiana

Surprisingly, perhaps, no conference has established a championship site in New Orleans, a city that has proven capable of hosting any number of football events from the Sugar Bowl and the New Orleans Bowl to the Super Bowl. So why not send Conference USA’s best to New Orleans for a championship game? Attendance in the Super Dome may be a concern, but it would be a good fit in the middle of the conference that fans would likely flock to.

MAC

In 2014: Detroit, Michigan

Best Possible Site: Detroit, Michigan

In an ideal world, the MAC would keep the conference championship game on the campus of either the top-seeded team or a campus somewhere between the two championship contenders. Given the map of the conference, that would seem to be possible and you can map out any number of scenarios ahead of time for planning purposes. But the conference has found a home in Detroit. With Indianapolis claimed by the Big Ten and Chicago lacking a coveted dome, Detroit seems to make the most sense as far as neutral sites are concerned. Cleveland or Cincinnati might be worthy candidates considering the huge number of members located in Ohio.

Personally, I think pairing up with the Big Ten and setting up a championship weekend extravaganza in the same city would be awesome.

Mountain West Conference

In 2014: On campus

Best Possible Site: Las Vegas, Nevada

If there is one destination in the Mountain West Conference that could stand out and make a scene and party surrounding the championship game, it might be Las Vegas. A championship game in Las Vegas could be a popular destination for fans and there certainly would be no lacking of things to do for all who attend. For now, the conference will stay on campus with championship games, and that may be the best decision, but Las Vegas should be on top of the list for the conference if it comes time to discuss neutral site options.

Pac-12

In 2014: On campus

Best Possible Site: Glendale, Arizona

The Pac-12 looks like it could be heading to the San Francisco area but marking Glendale, Arizona and University of Phoenix Stadium as a championship destination is certainly not a bad option. You get a roof, a first-class venue more than capable of hosting a big game (Super Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Wrestlemania) and who does not enjoy a trip to Glendale in November or December? Until a move to San Francisco is made official, the Pac-12 will remain on campus sites, but if San Francisco becomes a reality then Glendale should enter the conversation as well.

SEC

In 2014: Atlanta, Georgia

Best Possible Site: Atlanta, Georgia

The SEC started the whole conference championship game model and they have perfected it by making a long-term home in Atlanta, the hotbed of college football today. There is no other city that would serve the SEC as well as Atlanta does. It has the great location, will soon be adding a new football stadium, and is easy to get to. SEC fans have planted flags in Atlanta and there is no reason to move them anytime soon.

Sun Belt

No conference championship game

Best Possible Site: New Orleans, Louisiana

Similar to Conference USA, if the Sun Belt is to hold a conference championship game then making New Orleans a championship destination would seem to make sense. The atmosphere and scene in the party city would create a festive mood for all. The conference is expanding more to the north, so New Orleans is a bit more of a hike for some of the newer members, but the core of the conference continues to reside in the south between Texas and Georgia.

In an ideal world, perhaps, the Sun Belt would be able to share Atlanta and feed off of the SEC championship buzz on the same weekend. With the building of a new football stadium in Atlanta, perhaps there could be room made somewere.

 

Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. College Football Hall of Fame voter. Also managing Bloguin's NittanyLionsDen.com and Macho-Row.com.

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