We now have our answer for where the Washington State Cougars and Oregon State Beavers will be stashing the rest of their sports besides football on a temporary basis. CBS’s Matt Norlander reported this morning that the schools would be joining the West Coast Conference for two years starting with 2024-2025 in all sports except football and baseball. The WCC’s presidents and athletic directors are expected to approve the move on Thursday.
Importantly, the Cougs and Beavs will be eligible for the postseason and be considered “de facto” members of the conference. Their arrangement with the Mountain West is essentially purchasing six games a year and does not include any ability to participate in the conference championship.
Norlander reported that although it had been expected the Pac-2 would join the Mountain West, “logistical and ongoing legal concerns” (more on this in a bit) had kept it from becoming a reality. Importantly, the Pac-2 has the future of their athletic programs secured for at least the next couple of years while they work out everything else.
Why for the next two years and only two years for now? This fall, the NCAA confirmed the Pac-12 can operate as a two-team conference through at least 2026. This works out nicely for the WCC as well, as they welcome in two large, public institutions after losing the Brigham Young Cougars to the Big 12 this year. Even if it’s just on a temporary basis, they’ll get a visibility bump nationally.
The “logistical” issues are likely related to travel arrangements for all sports. While the WCC tends to have schools travel on weekends to traveling pairs (much the same way the Pac-12 does now), the Mountain West doesn’t. For instance, over a five game span, the Nevada Wolf Pack alternate home-away to all parts of the MWC footprint. Although the footprint for the conferences is roughly the same, the savings in travel cost with how they arrange away games is likely to be significant enough that it was a large consideration for Washington State and Oregon State.
As for “ongoing legal concerns”, it’s just a guess but it might be related to the Mountain West wanting more than just a two-year scheduling agreement for football to agree to a schedule with all other sports. The Mountain West would, to be clear, be right to ask for this. It’s not entirely unreasonable to ask for more of a commitment than what they’re getting now if WSU and OSU wanted a home for all their sports but it’s also easy to see why WSU and OSU wouldn’t want to make it. This keeps their options wide open for the next couple of years, especially as the Mountain West television contract is up for renewal in 2026. If you wanted to keep any hope of peeling parts of that conference off to rebuild the Pac-12, this is precisely how you do it.
So, what about baseball? Well ... who knows? An independent schedule isn’t completely out of the question here but that’s not likely to do any favors for rejuvenating the program. It’s entirely possible that program ends up in yet another conference, which would be unprecedented for a school to participate in three conferences. But then again, this is all a little unprecedented.