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An entirely wild realignment idea: Stall

Instead of reverse merging or joining the Mountain West, why not do something completely insane? You stall for the two years you’re allowed to.

Washington State v Oregon State Photo by Ali Gradischer/Getty Images

With the departure of Cal and Stanford to the ACC last week, the Washington State Cougars and Oregon State Beavers now truly have control over what happens to them in this insane realignment saga. They are, officially, the last schools standing in the Pac-12 Conference.

Mountain West commissioner Gloria Nevarez spent the weekend at games involving schools that are currently members playing ones she hopes to have in the near future. While jumping into Mountain West either directly or via reverse merger is certainly the safest move, it brings with it a mess of questions lawyers are racking up billable hours trying to answer. What happens to the tens of millions of dollars in NCAA Units due the conference? What about the big Rose Bowl settlement? What about the Pac-12 Network?

There is, however, one other option. To be clear, it’s borderline insane and itself comes with complications arguably more numerous than whatever the remaining two schools can work out with Nevarez and her membership. But it’s also the one that could benefit Oregon State and Washington State much more.

You do ... nothing.

I’m not kidding. You do nothing. For now, anyway.

It sounds much simpler than I’m making it out to be! And you’d be in a conference with only two members!

But, per NCAA by-laws, this is actually allowed for two years. When the Pac-12 drops below that number around this time next year, they have until August 2026 to get back.

Timing wise, this works out rather spectacularly for the Cougs and Beavs. The Mountain West’s television contract is up in 2026. The exit fee for American Athletic Conference teams drops significantly to $10 million if they give 27 months notice.

This isn’t the “rebuild the Pac-12” we’ve been hearing lately. I mean, it sort of is, but the resolution wouldn’t be complete for three years.

So, how would you do this? For one thing, Washington State and Oregon State would immediately need to sign a Grant of Rights to one another and the conference so they can be assured they’re both working towards the same goal. From there, by the end of this month, you need to invite at least eight other schools to the Pac-12 beginning in Summer 2026 and have them accept the invitation. In all likelihood, a new conference would look something like this:

New Pac-12/10

West East
West East
Washington State Boise State
Oregon State Colorado State
Fresno State UNLV
Nevada Tulane
San Diego State Memphis

Again, this is incredibly high risk but also remarkably high reward. This conference is almost assuredly worth more than what the Mountain West is getting from their television partners now. You’ve also got more than two years to negotiate a television deal with Fox, CBS and, in all likelihood, Apple or Amazon.

Importantly, much as the currently Big 12 is constituted, your membership is likely very solid because these are all schools that are just about as far up the food chain as they’ll ever go.

The upside to doing this frankly higher than any option with the Mountain West currently in front of the Cougs and Beavs. What it requires is an awful lot of courage from the administrators at both schools to make it work, something college administrators aren’t exactly known for.

It also requires a lot of other things be done successfully to make this work and that’s what probably makes this just a thought exercise rather than reality.

For one thing, you’ve got to find somewhere for every sport that’s not football to go for the next two years which means finding a conference partner willing to play ball knowing this is temporary. The Mountain West won’t take you if you’re poaching teams so that really leaves either the West Coast Conference and, much less ideally, the Big West or Big Sky. But you need somewhere for those teams to be that keeps travel costs down while you get the Pac-12 reconstituted.

You’ve also got to schedule 19 football games for 2024 and 2025 and you’ve got to do it fast. It’s workable, barely, but after just a few minutes on, I cobbled something that’s palatable together.

Sample Two-Year Schedule

2024 Schedule 2025 Schedule
2024 Schedule 2025 Schedule
31-Aug Portland State 30-Aug Idaho
7-Sep at SDSU 6-Sep SDSU
14-Sep at Army 13-Sep at ECU
21-Sep SJSU 20-Sep Nevada
28-Sep at Oregon St. 27-Sep Oregon St.
5-Oct SMU 4-Oct at SMU
19-Oct UConn 18-Oct at Uconn
26-Oct at CMU 25-Oct UNLV
2-Nov Northwestern 1-Nov at Miami
9-Nov FCS Opp. 8-Nov Vanderbilt
16-Nov at FAU 15-Nov FCS Opp.
23-Nov Oregon St. 22-Nov at Oregon St.

Again, this requires buy in from all these teams to play non-con games at odd times of year but it’s something several teams do every year. For two years, you also wouldn’t have a television partner and you’d be beholden to whoever broadcasts games for your away opponents. But, importantly, you would have the Pac-12 Network. Stashing every home game on that channel wouldn’t be great but it is something you can leverage if you truly needed to. Importantly, as long as the channel exists, you’ll keep getting carriage fees for it, fees that Washington State and Oregon State would keep exclusively for two years.

There’s a lot of reasons for this not to work and going it alone for a couple of years it a huge risk. And you may know right away that it just won’t go. If the teams you invite balk and aren’t interested, that’s the end of it (and, most assuredly, Nevarez would be pressuring her membership to do just that).

It would also be a very painful two years for both schools. Sure, there would be light at the end of the tunnel with a fully reformed conference in 2026 but coaches and student-athletes are going to leave in droves in all likelihood. Travel for football is going to be expensive and you may need to go hat in hand to the state to ask for help in the interim.

But, if properly thought out and executed, this is the best outcome for Oregon State and Washington State. Like I mentioned, the intestinal fortitude required from both schools is perhaps without precedent in the NCAA.

But if it went right ... we’d be in damn near the best position we could’ve hoped for after all this.