Days after their victory in court, Oregon State and Washington State — the two remaining members of the Pac-12 — are moving forward with their future plans.
The schools have reconnected with Mountain West officials as part of a two-year football programming alliance with the league in a deal that could serve as the first step in a long-term partnership or even a merger, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Mountain West administrators held calls Wednesday to further discuss details. More meetings are planned for Thursday, including a meeting of league presidents to, presumably, grant Commissioner Gloria Nevarez permission to continue negotiations.
The two sides — Pac-2 and Mountain West — are reportedly close to reaching an agreement on terms, but the deal is not done and may not be finalized for several days. However, templates for a possible planning alliance were developed and socialized over the past two months as Nevarez and his team prepared for this eventuality. Yahoo Sports reported on the proposals in an article last month.
While there are many scheduling models, the most likely is what’s called a “7+1” format in which Mountain West teams play seven conference games — not eight — plus one game against the Washington State or Oregon State. They would alternate playing OSU or WSU at home and away during the two-year cycle.
Games against OSU and WSU should not count toward league standings. The two members of the Pac-12 will not be eligible for the MWC championship and will compete as quasi-independents under the Pac-12 banner.
Mountain West schools with non-conference games already scheduled against one of the two schools will also play the other during the same season. For example, San Diego State has games scheduled against Washington State, at home in 2024 and on the road in 2025. In the model, the Aztecs would likely also play Oregon State both years.
Three other schools would play two games against the Pac-12 duo in a single season because they already have games scheduled, including Boise State (Oregon State, 2024), Fresno State (Oregon State, 2025) and San Jose State (Washington State, 2025). 2024).
The deal, which is expected to include a lucrative financial package for Mountain West members, will likely feature a long-term commitment to the conference with the intent of a full merger beyond this two-year cycle. Part of the agreement includes a financial penalty that may be imposed on Oregon State and Washington State if the two programs attempt to acquire only a portion of MWC schools in the future.
As for broadcast rights, Mountain West home games against OSU and WSU will be televised regularly by MWC TV partners Fox and CBS Sports Network. The league hopes to receive additional revenue from media rights for these games, which will be distributed throughout the conference.
Oregon State and Washington State will likely negotiate separate broadcast deals with those networks and possibly others to televise their own home games. The Pac-12’s television deal with ESPN and Fox ends after this academic year.
For now, the programming alliance is all about football. Oregon State and Washington State are in talks with other leagues to create affiliate memberships for their other sports.
On Tuesday, both schools scored a victory when a Washington County court granted their preliminary injunction against the 10 departing Pac-12 schools. The decision gives OSU and WSU full governance authority over the league and its more than $400 million in assets this year. The decision, for now, is delayed while outgoing Pac-12 schools appeal.
The decision means the Cougars and Beavers could soon have access to millions of dollars in Pac-12 revenue from television contracts, the Rose Bowl and NCAA basketball tournament units. This revenue is normally distributed to each school in installments in December. Each school is to receive approximately $35 million to $40 million.
The money could help both schools prepare for their futures, including reaching such a deal with the Mountain West. The two entities – the Pac-2 and Mountain West – have been sporadically engaged in discussions about their shared future. That includes merging Mountain West schools with both to compete under the Pac-12 brand — a way to preserve the league. Although bizarre and unlikely, a relegation model has also been discussed among some administrators.
In an effort to retain Pac-12 assets — the league is owed more than $100 million in future assets — Washington State and Oregon State are preparing to operate as a two-school conference for at least next year and maybe two. They use a two-year grace period in the NCAA. Conferences falling below the eight-member minimum have two years to return to the eight-member mark before no longer being recognized as a conference.
In the short term, Oregon State and Washington State must finalize their football schedules for 2024 and potentially 2025. A deal with the Mountain West gives them seven opponents each year. Both programs have already scheduled three non-conference games — some against MWC teams — and could resume more games, including continuing their national rivalry series with Washington and Oregon. However, it is not guaranteed that the Oregon-OSU and Washington-WSU games will continue.
The Pac-12 shakeup has sparked changes to the sport’s postseason.
At their meeting last Thursday, FBS commissioners recommended a change to the expanded College Football Playoff format, settling on a model that grants automatic qualifiers to the five highest-ranked conference champions and at-large berths to the next seven highest ranked teams – a decision from a 6+6 model to a 5+7. The change must be approved by unanimous consent of the corresponding board of chairmen of commissioners.
The commissioners also established a policy requiring a conference to have eight members for its champion to be eligible for an automatic qualifying spot. The policy does not need presidential approval, several CFP officials told Yahoo Sports.
Such a policy change eliminates Oregon State and Washington State from an automatic playoff bid to win a Pac-2 league. They would only be eligible for a place on parole.
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