Aug 16, 2023 - Sports

The Pac-12's disintegration, explained

A red WSU flag is waving in the air in front of a crowded stadium in the background.

A Washington State Cougars cheerleader flies the WSU flag during a game in November 2022. Photo: Oliver McKenna/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Long billed as the Conference of Champions for winning the most National Collegiate Athletic Association team crowns, the 108-year-old Pac-12 appears to be unraveling after the University of Washington and the University of Oregon announced earlier this month they are leaving for the Big Ten.

Why it matters: It's a massive change for University of Washington athletes who will travel more often and further for games and face heightened competition in their new league.

What's happening: Starting in the 2024 fall season, UW and UO schools will play in the Big Ten athletic conference, which has been expanding geographically but still is largely made up of schools in the Midwest.

  • It comes after the University of Southern California and UCLA announced they would also leave for the Big Ten next year.
  • Meanwhile this summer, Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah all agreed to join the Big 12.
  • That leaves only four schools, Washington State University, Oregon State, University of California Berkeley and Stanford, in the Pac-12.

The big picture: It all comes down to TV dollars.

  • According to The Athletic, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff presented an offer from Apple to school presidents and athletic directors that would net an estimated base of $23 million a year per school.
  • Initially, UW and UO are expected to get about $30 million a year under the Big Ten's deal with Fox, NBC and CBS. Established Big Ten schools will get more than $60 million a year.

Between the lines: The move will bring more money to UW sports, and may help recruit students.

The intrigue: There's plenty of blame to go around, according to Mercury News sports reporter Jon Wilner.

The burning question: The 115th Apple Cup is slated for Nov. 25 in Seattle, but WSU director of athletics Pat Chun said school administrators have not made a decision on whether the annual showdown will continue in the future.

  • In a Zoom call with media last week, he acknowledged the anger many Cougs have for Huskies right now, but said the ultimate decision will be "based on what's best for Washington State, what's best for our student-athletes."
avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Seattle.

More Seattle stories