This weekend, Washington State and Oregon State will square off in a top-25 battle in Pullman. There are plenty of storylines heading into kickoff on Saturday. Both teams are off to incredible, undefeated starts this season. Both teams have hopes of ending the season in the Pac-12 title game. But, of course, there is another storyline on the top of everyone’s mind.
Both the Beavers and Cougars find themselves without a conference home in 2024. At this point, you all probably know just about everything there is to know about the situation. The lawsuit, the remaining Pac-12 money, the media deals and so much more. Now, we’re just waiting for the next turn in this ever-changing soap opera.
Throughout the whole process, WSU president Kirk Schulz has tried to keep the WSU fanbase informed... Or at least as informed as he can. On Tuesday, he continued that process, addressing some of the biggest outstanding questions. While he didn’t have too many definitive answers, there were some interesting tidbits that Cougar (and Beaver) fans might be interested in.
“We are evaluating several options that will depend on a number of factors,” Schulz said in an email address, “including the resolution of pending litigation around the governance of the Pac‑12 Board of Directors.”
Of course, Schulz didn’t have an answer to the question about which conference WSU will play in next season. It sounds like WSU and OSU’s ongoing litigation against the Pac-12 will have a lot to do with that decision. In the meantime, however, the Cougs need to plan for every possible outcome.
“We are also continuing to engage in fact-finding conversations with the Mountain West Conference and will discuss a variety of different partnership opportunities and options with them.”
According to Colorado State’s athletic director Joe Parker, the Cougars and Beavers are discussing a scheduling alliance for the 2024 season. That might be a good way for the two schools to fill their schedule while waiting for a final conference outcome. It might also be a good way for the two schools to build a new conference (or rebuild the Pac-12) in 2025 by lowering the exit fees for outside schools that may be leaving their old conference.
The other big question on the mind of WSU fans, students, faculty and staff centers on the financial aspects of a conference move. It’s no secret that the collapse of the Pac-12 almost certainly means a significant drop in TV revenue for the Cougs. And, for a program like Washington State, that could mean major cutbacks within the athletic department. In his Q&A, Schulz did his best to quell those fears.
“Presently, I do not expect there to be any direct impacts on academic budgets due to a change in conference affiliation,” Schulz wrote. “However, there will certainly be significant changes in our athletics budget since we will not receive the same level of media-rights funding in the future as we received from the Pac‑12 Conference previously. Any potential reductions as a result of this change in media-rights funding will be reflected in the athletics operating budget in FY2025.”
Schulz went on to assure fans that Cougar athletics will continue at a high level in 2024 and beyond, no matter where WSU lands. “We will still have Cougar Football playing home games at GESA Field as we have for decades, still have exciting men’s and women’s basketball at Beasley Coliseum, still have large home crowds for volleyball and soccer, and will enjoy spring weekend crowds for Cougar Baseball.”
Right now, no one is sure what will happen with the Cougs in 2024 and beyond. Not even Kirk Schulz. The waiting game is tough for everyone and there is a lot on the line... But the success from teams all across Pullman is the perfect way to get your mind off of that uncertainty. So get out and support the Cougs this year and cross your fingers that WSU finds the best possible landing spot moving forward.
Washington State University - Address from WSU President Kirk Schulz
Dear Cougar Nation,
As we continue to navigate the evolving landscape of intercollegiate athletics and conference realignment, I would like to provide a brief update regarding our search for an appropriate landing spot for Cougar Athletics.
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