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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Bay Area becomes center of college football world

Levi’s Stadium plays host to Monday’s national championship

The College Football Playoff National Championship took place on Monday night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, marking the first time the game has been held in Northern California. Monday night’s game was also significant for this geographical region in another way, as it comes on the heels of Super Bowl 50 which was also played at the home of the San Francisco 49ers back in early 2016.

The University of Alabama and Clemson University squared off for the fourth year in a row, with last season being the only non-National Championship game in the sequence, and put their undefeated records to the test.

Clemson ran away with a 44-16 victory, securing its second national championship in three years and becoming the first team in FBS history to finish with a record of 15-0. The loss was also a notable one for legendary Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban, who had never previously lost a game by more than 14 points since taking over the Crimson Tide in 2007.

The Tigers and Crimson Tide lit up the scoreboard in the opening nine minutes of play, combining to score 27 points. Clemson began to pull away in the second quarter and took a 15-point lead into the locker room at halftime, before pitching a shutout in the second half and adding two more touchdowns. They took advantage of two costly interceptions thrown by Alabama sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and also torched the Crimson Tide secondary, as freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed five passes of over 25 yards and threw for a total of 347 yards.

Levi’s Stadium and the Bay Area came under a large amount of criticism from the national media in the days leading up to the game, due to the perceived lack of enthusiasm for the game and historically-low ticket prices on the secondary market. Nonetheless, the atmosphere in Santa Clara was lively on Monday night, with visiting fans from Alabama and South Carolina and locals showing out for a historic night of football. In total, over 74,000 fans packed the home of the 49ers.

Despite having three FBS college football programs — San Jose State, Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley —  in its footprint, the Bay Area has never hosted this monumental event before. While none of these teams has any experience playing for a national championship in about three quarters of a century, there’s still a rich history of the sport in this area. Cal claimed five national championships from 1920-1940, with Stanford also winning two during that same period. While neither program has reached the mountaintop of the college football world since then, each has groomed countless players and coaches into successful individuals at the NFL level.

          Similar to the Super Bowl in 2016, this year’s game had a plethora of festivities for fans leading up to the main event. Over the weekend, downtown San Jose was transformed into the “Championship Campus”, offering many attractions for the visiting Alabama and Clemson fans and Northern California residents alike.

The main attraction of the weekend was undoubtedly a two-day lineup of free concerts, where fans packed Discovery Meadow Park in the heart of downtown to enjoy the likes of Alessia Cara, Brynn Elliott, Leon Bridges, Logic and others. Heavy rainfall in the region was not enough to deter the thousands of people that showed up, many of which camped out several hours early to reserve their spot.

Another big attraction was “Playoff Fan Central”, a 100,000 square-foot interactive museum of sorts, offering many different games and drills for young fans, historic exhibits of famous college football moments over the years, autograph signings and performances from each school’s marching band. A similar event was held in San Francisco for Super Bowl 50, which welcomed tens of thousands of fans over a three-day period.

Both teams arrived on their charter flights on Friday evening and were greeted by fans and members of the media at San Jose International Airport. Players and coaches from each squad participated in Media Day the following morning, hosted at SAP Center in San Jose — the home arena of the San Jose Sharks. Over 1,000 credentialed members of the media gathered to interview the teams, while the public were allowed to watch for free.

Instead of holding a live halftime show on the field of Levi’s Stadium, event planners opted for a concert by “Imagine Dragons” on Treasure Island, situated between the Oakland and San Francisco spans of the Bay Bridge. The concert was televised live on ESPN for viewers around the globe, while the Clemson and Alabama marching bands performed for fans inside the stadium.

The main motive behind this decision was to preserve the playing surface for the second half of the game. Ever since its inception in 2014, Levi’s Stadium has struggled to provide an adequate playing surface, making it difficult for players to keep their footing and change direction when running. This has drawn a lot of complaints from players and coaches, as the field conditions have had a definite impact on the outcome of many football games. The stadium has replaced the turf dozens of times, including early last week, and experimented with a few different types of grass. None of these measures have changed the slippery nature of the surface or prevented divots from forming so easily.

Fortunately, there weren’t any noticeable issues with the field during Monday night’s contest, as the surface seemed to hold up quite well.

Overall, the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship was an unforgettable experience for football fans in Northern California, who got to witness two of the most dominant college football programs of this generation. Many years from now, fans will look back on this game and admire all of the great individual players from each school that will likely go on to have fantastic careers at the professional level.

Written by: Brendan Ogburn — sports@theaggie.org


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