Washington State coach Jake Dickert said Thursday that the situation in which the Pac-12 conference presently finds itself — on the verge of total collapse — is unthinkable. And the Cougs’ leader knows who is largely at fault.

“The old question (was) how long would it take TV money to destroy college football? Maybe we’re here,” he told reporters after practice.

The Big 12, having already reached an agreement to bring Colorado back into the fold, and the Big Ten are circling what’s left of the league hoping to continue picking off programs.

League commissioner George Kliavkoff presented a media rights deal earlier this week that was said to be heavily dependent on streaming and too light in terms of per-year payouts for each school. Since the league got a look at what its next media deal might be, things have moved quickly. The Big Ten has explored the possibility of adding Oregon and Washington. Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah are heavily rumored to be weighing a move to the Big 12.

In this latest round of musical chairs, Dickert’s Cougars and Jonathan Smith’s Oregon State Beavers could find themselves left without a seat.

“To think even remotely five years ago that the Pac-12 would be in this position… it’s unthinkable to think that we’re here today,” he continued. “To think that local rivalries are at risk and fans driving four hours to watch their team play in a road game and rivalries is at risk to me is unbelievable.

“I know our place at the table and, at the end of the day, the Pac-12 football and Pac-12 brand is really strong. And if we stay together as really strong, then we’ll have a strong future. I firmly believe in that.”

FOX and ESPN have been at the center of this period of conference realignment. OU and Texas moved to the SEC to capitalize on the mega-deal with ESPN coming down the pipeline.

In response, the Big Ten went out and grabbed USC and UCLA. When it then signed its landmark seven-year, $7 billion media deal with FOX, NBC, and CBS, the deal was reported to have escalators in it should the Big Ten continue adding teams. Further expansion west made too much sense for the league to not consider it.

And then the Big 12 jumped in front of the Pac-12 to sign its media deal with ESPN, putting the pressure on Kliavkoff to at least match the number the Big 12 secured (a reported average of just under $32 million). Without the Los Angeles market, and with the threat of more Big 12 defections, doing so has proven quite challenging for Kliavkoff.

“We’ll look back on college football in 20 years and just think, ‘What are we doing?'” Dickert said. “Let’s let our guys stay regional. Let’s play. Let’s preserve the Pac-12 and what it is.”