Brian's edit: Bumped for thoughtful discussion. We've looked at everything else about expansion, so we might as well look at this.
I, like every other Pac-10 fan, have my doubts about expansion. One of the things that brings me around is the idea of a conference championship. Championship games bring much needed hype, excitement, and most importantly money, to what has occasionally been dominated with the forgone conclusion that one team in particular would take it all.
Sure, there are a lot of things that have to be considered in this process, but I wanted to take some time to look at one thing in particular: Location.Taking a look at the 3 other BCS conference championships, they are all played in NFL stadiums, with two exceptions: The SEC championship was played in Birmingham in '92 and '93 and the Big 12 title game was played in the Alamo Dome in '97, '99, and 2007. So I limited my choices to NFL stadiums. This puts the Pac-12 in a unique position. The largest city in the Pac-12 doesn't have an NFL facility. So, Let's take a look at the Top Five Choices.
5 - San Fransisco's Candlestick Park - Hosts: California and Stanford
The most historic of choices on the list is Candlestick park. The former home of the giants and current home of the 49ers was built in 1960.
Pros: History - This place is where history is made. Opened in 1960 as the home of the San Francisco Giants, later it would become home to the NFL's 49ers. "The Stick" hosted 2 MLB all-star games, 2 world series' (Including one of the more memorable moments in world series history in 1989 after the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake), 6 NFC championship games (Including a moment between Dwight Clark and Joe Montana simply known as "The Catch"), and was home to The final concert that the Beatles ever gave. Plus, it was home to football greats like Joe Montana, Bill Walsh, and so many more.
Cons: Age - One man's history is another man's "a lousy stadium" in "terrible disrepair" (The other man being San Francisco's own Mayor). It's no secret that CandleStick is old, after all, that's why the Giants left 9 years ago for beautiful Pac-Bell/SBC/ATT Park. The 49ers are seeking a new palace in Santa Clara that's set to break ground in 2012. It's been through a lot, but it's really showing it's age.
Weather - Candlestick has a bad reputation for bad weather of all kinds, namely fog, cold and severe wind. The story goes that wind coming from The Pacific hits a hill a few hundred feet from the park. The wind hits the park, meets with wind coming from the other direction and creates a very cold night for fans in the park. The cold conditions in the Summer are what caused the Giants to move, imagine the wind in mid-December.
4- Denver's Invesco Field at Mile High - Host: Colorado
Pros: Denver - Denver is a very underrated city. It has great culture and Mile High Stadium is a great facility. It's one of the newer stadiums in the NFL (Opened in 2001), and from what I have seen, it's a very nice place to play and watch a football game.
Cons: Damn it's cold! - Pop Quiz: the average December temperature in Denver? It's 31 degrees. To compare, in LA, the average temperature in December is nearly double that. Yeah, that 31 isn't the best, but the NFL just gave a Super Bowl to New Jersey (Average Feb Temperature is also 31) so nothing is impossible.
3- San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium - Host: USC and UCLA
Pros: Weather - Who doesn't love the weather in San Diego? I think that I read somewhere that it has never been below 80 degrees in that city, but I could be wrong. The city is beautiful. What normal 18-22 year old male football player would not jump at the chance to head to San Diego any time of the year... Come to think of it, maybe this is a negative. I think coaches might rather go to Denver...
Cons: Stadium - Another Old West Coast Stadium, another team having difficulty finding a new place to play. I'm seeing a trend. Qualcomm was built in 1967 and the concourses are very tight. While it does seat 72,000, they are crammed in there shoulder to shoulder, especially on those concourses.
It is also unclear who would host it. While "The Q" isn't really close to any school (It's about 2 Hours away from either LA school), it is the closest NFL Stadium to the LA Metro Area.
2- Seattle's Qwest Field - Hosts: Washington and Washington State
Pros: Facilities - Now, obviously, this is the hands down favorite for all of us Cougs (And Huskies, and Beavers, and Ducks) and it is one of the nicer experiences in the NFL. Opened in 2002, it is regarded by many as one of the loudest stadiums, a great experience for any big game, whether it's NFL, MLS, or the Pac-12 Championship game. It is also surrounded by many great places to hold events leading up to big game.
Cons: Seattle - I love Seattle. In nice weather, it is one of the most beautiful cities in America. But let's face it, in Seattle in mid-December, Seattle will more than likely live up to it's hype, Thus, cutting down on some of the activities the Pac-12 will want to plan around the game.
Qwest Field is also the closest stadium to a member school. It is a little over 10 minutes away (Without Traffic) from The University of Washington, By far the closest stadium on the list to any other school (Second being Stanford and ASU which are each about 30 minutes from Candlestick and University of Phoenix, respectively). The Huskies are a team on the rise and in a couple more years a championship game at qwest may very well be a home game for UW.
1- Glendale's University of Phoenix Stadium - Hosts: Arizona and Arizona State
Pros: New Stadium Smell - This is the third newest stadium in Pro Football (Not counting Meadowlands) and it's really cool. It has a retractable roof, grass on rollers, and it's shaped like a curled up rattlesnake. It might be one of the coolest stadiums in sports. It's already hosted Fiesta Bowls, A BCS National Championship, A Super Bowl and, Most Importantly, Last year's Wrestlemania. The place was made for big events like a conference championship game.
Cons: Isolation - It's not that big of a deal, but it is in a sports complex that feels a little out of the way from Downtown Glendale. It wasn't a problem for the Ncaa before (Or the NFL, or Professional Wrestling) so, it probably won't be for the Pac-10.
LA Coliseum/Rose Bowl - We all know how much the Pac loves LA ("Hey, let's have the Basketball Tourney at Staples Every Year!), but I just don't see how playing a championship game at a home site will work, especially a home site for a (former) powerhouse like USC. But, revenue wise, you just can't beat a nearly 100,000 seat venue in the heart of America's second biggest city.
ATT Park - A better option visually (Can't beat that view), but all in all it's a baseball stadium they happen to play football in once a year. Not going to cut it for a football title game.
There you have it, my top 5 locations for a Pac-12 Championship game. Did I leave anything off or get them in the wrong order? Go ahead an make your own list and tell me how I'm wrong in every way.