Washington lawmakers seeking to tie UW to Washington State in any conference realignment
Washington had preliminary discussions with the Big Ten about the possibility of leaving the Pac-12 and joining the Big Ten last summer when the news of USC and UCLA’s impending departure kickstarted a new round of conference realignment.
With the Pac-12 on shaky ground, the Huskies and Oregon both looked to the Big Ten. It has long been reported that a conference switch from UW — if it were to happen — would feature a partnership with the Ducks, not with in-state rival Washington State.
That possibility put those in Pullman on edge, and it has apparently sparked a legislative solution.
A bill proposed in this year’s legislative session seeks to Washington and Washington State at the hip with regards to conference realignment and ultimately give state lawmakers input in decision-making.
The bill would require UW and Wazzu to compete in the same conference. The board of regents for both schools could jointly recommend moving to a new conference, but such a move would be subject to approval by the state legislature, the bill states.
Sen. Drew MacEwen, R-Shelton, is the primary sponsor of the measure. He’s joined by Jeff Holy, R-Spokane, and Sam Hunt, D-Olympia.
MacEwen spoke with The Kitsap Sun about the bill.
“I think that both of those schools have rich history in this state, and I don’t think that decision should be made without public input via the Legislature,” MacEwen told The Sun. “The intent of that bill is to, one, keep UW and WSU together, so we don’t end up losing one to a different conference and the other one is left in a conference that is dwindling, that being the Pac-12, and then at the same time, having the Legislature have input and oversight and approval of any major conference realignments. Looking at it from the taxpayer’s viewpoint, I think we have every right to do that and make sure that we honor our rich tradition in this state of both those schools.
“At the end of the day, the Legislature has got to approve it. The intent of that is that we would keep the two schools together to preserve the traditions that have existed since statehood between the two schools. I look at it from that viewpoint that one can’t leave without the other.”
MacEwen added that he’s open to suggestions from either school regarding the bill’s language, but he believes the public “should have a voice” in realignment discussions, per The Sun.
Washington and Washington State have faced each other for the Apple Cup 114 times on the football field. UW has won 11 of the last 13 meetings and owns a 75-33-6 record in the series all-time.
With Kevin Warren exiting as the Big Ten’s commissioner and heading to the Chicago Bears to be the NFL franchise’s new team president and CEO, it has been heavily speculated that conference expansion could significantly cool in his absence.
Warren reportedly didn’t have great support from Big Ten presidents regarding further expansion. It has also been heavily reported that if the Big Ten went back to the Pac-12, it would target Oregon, Washington, Cal, and Stanford.