There was a great deal of moaning and groaning about college sports’ biggest event being awarded to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California - an hour south of San Francisco. In the two previous years, the game was hosted in the Southeast (Tampa, Atlanta) and ticket demand was sky high. National Championship ticket prices pushed past $2,000 on the secondary market in those years! While Clemson and Alabama are only 325 miles apart, they (and their fans) had to travel over 2,000 miles to play each other in Northern California. It was quite the hike and obviously added time and expense for the fans. Those complaints are certainly merited, but once folks arrived, it was quite the venue.
Although it rained in the days preceding the game, gameday was beautiful. Parking lots were easy to find and park in. Entering the stadium was a relative breeze. Walking in didn’t require waiting in line for 45+ minutes or wading through six inches of trash (shout out Tampa). Once inside the stadium, the views of the surrounding area were quite picturesque.
The stadium was a little funky in that it only has one upper-deck. As a result, it’s didn’t get overly loud in support of the defenses, but it lit up on big plays like I haven’t heard since the Chase Brice 4th down throw vs. Syracuse that helped get the Tigers there. The sight lines were good and the field appeared to be in good shape despite plenty of talk about it being a muddy sludge field.
One of the most notable memories I’ll carry specific to the stadium was just how first class the fireworks and confetti during the post-game trophy ceremony were. Fireworks shot from all four sides of the stadium while orange, purple, and white confetti floated upwards in the dry California air.
Again, distance was the real issue. It made little sense to put the game so far west given the eight of the last 10 programs to play in a National Championship game are all east of Texas with only Oregon coming all the way from the west coast:
- Ohio State
- Florida State
- Notre Dame
Fortunately, Northern California at least had a lot to offer outside of the game. There are plenty of reasonable nearby tourist attractions (e.g., Napa Valley, Muir Woods, San Francisco, etc.). That’s more than can be said for Glendale (2015 season), Indianapolis (2021 season), or Houston (2023 season). Last year’s location — Atlanta — is obviously the Mecca of college football and the championship game should often visit there as well as New Orleans and Miami — the next two sites, but with the benefit of hindsight, the Bay Area wasn’t half bad for a glory filled vacation.