Jan 17, 2024 - Sports

What's next for the Pac-12 and its last schools, OSU and WSU

Illustration of a letterman jacket with a PAC-12 patch peeling away.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

It will be a different kind of year for Oregon State and Washington State, the two universities that remain in the Pac-12 beyond this summer.

Why it matters: The impending departure of the league's other 10 members leaves WSU and OSU with the task of rebuilding the decades-old athletic conference.

  • With the league's demise, the schools each stand to lose tens of millions of dollars in athletics revenue, which could hurt their ability to pay for programs like women's sports, OSU president Jayathi Murthy told NPR in November.

Catch up quick: Four Pac-12 schools — Oregon, Washington, USC and UCLA — will leave in August to join the Big Ten.

  • Four more — Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah — are heading to the Big 12, while Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, will join the ACC.
  • The exodus was spurred by some schools' desires to secure a better media rights deal than what the Pac-12 could negotiate, according to reports from The Athletic and others.

By the numbers: Murthy recently estimated that OSU could face a gap of about $40 million in its annual athletics budget — or more than 40% of the department's total budget — due to the Pac-12's collapse.

  • WSU president Kirk Schulz told ESPN last summer that Washington State could lose a similar share of its athletics revenue.

State of play: While WSU and OSU won full control of the conference in court proceedings last month, it's unclear how they'll wield that power in the long term.

  • The two universities reached an agreement last month with the 10 departing Pac-12 schools on how to split revenue from the conference this year.
  • The terms of that settlement haven't been made public, but one critical aspect is that OSU and WSU will retain all future Pac-12 revenue, the school presidents said in a written statement.

A separate scheduling agreement with the Mountain West conference ensures that WSU and OSU's football teams still have teams to play next year.

Meanwhile, OSU and WSU will become affiliate members of the West Coast Conference in a two-year arrangement that applies to several other sports, including basketball.

Yes, but: The temporary agreements that aim to ensure the Cougars and Beavers have games to play next year also may hurt the conference's ability to recruit new members to the Pac-12.

  • The Oregonian reported that the agreement with the Mountain West says the conference and its two remaining schools could owe millions in penalties if they try to poach teams from the Mountain West before mid-2027.

What we're watching: Whether the Pac-12 can build back up to having at least eight member schools in the next two years, something Murthy told NPR the NCAA requires.

Plus: Whether OSU and WSU can lean on philanthropy, student fees or other revenue sources to help bankroll their athletic programs.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Seattle.

More Seattle stories