Oregon State, Washington State weigh options after AAC ends pursuit
Oregon State and Washington State are the last two teams standing in a conference that has existed in college athletics for more than a century. What those two decide to do next remains a mystery.
Stanford and Cal were officially invited into the ACC on Friday. In statements from both the Cougs and the Beavers, the move was said to have come as no surprise. The Cougars said they have had “ongoing contact” with Oregon State about moving forward.
“Preserving the Pac-12 in some form, we believe, helps continue more than 100 years of sports history and tradition,” Oregon State president Jayathi Murthy said in a news conference Friday. “Jumping from a conference was never the first option.”
American Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said Friday after the ACC news became official that, while the AAC explored the possibility of adding Oregon State and Washington State, they decided against such a move.
“The best way to proceed for our outstanding student-athletes is to not look westward,” Aresco said. “Instead, we plan to focus any expansion efforts on schools that allow for sensible and sustainable competition and student-athlete well-being within our strong geographic footprint.”
The Pac-2 now faces a dilemma.
Merge with the Mountain West? Try to pry the most valuable Mountain West schools and AAC schools away from their respective conferences to join the Pac-Whatever? Or jump and let the PAC fade to obscurity?
“We will find the right place for our student-athletes,” Oregon State AD Scott Barnes said Friday.
Added Murthy: “You won’t have to wait very long.”
According to a report from The Athletic’s Steward Mandel, the Cougs and Beavs could theoretically operate as a two-team league making their own schedule for two years, taking up revenue from other sources like the NCAA Tournament and the College Football Playoff and the Rose Bowl, and then reconfiguring when the Mountain West has to re-up its TV deal.
On paper, the Pac-12 brand and its assets still hold value. Perhaps more so than the Mountain West.
“We’ve had a number of conversations about what our path forward might look like in retaining the Pac-12 and its potential assets and status,” Barnes said. “And those are items that certainly weigh into the decision of others to want to want to be part of a new Pac-12.”
The Big Ten and the ACC will boast 18 members each during the 2024-25 athletic calendar. The SEC and Big 12 will feature 16 teams each. The ACC’s grab on Friday seemingly settles things amongst the remaining autonomy conferences.
The SEC doesn’t feel pressure to move again. The Big 12 could have had Oregon State and Washington State if it wanted them, but took just four Pac-12 teams instead. The Big Ten appears done. The ACC might not have room (or the stomach) for anyone else anytime soon.
But this round of realignment doesn’t yet seem to be done.
And then there were two.