The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

COMMENTARY: the sudden collapse of the Pac-12 is not good for anyone

Conference of Champions, what a joke
Fans rush the field after the WSU victory over Oregon on Oct. 20, 2018, in Martin Stadium.

Throughout just a few hours on Friday, August 4, things went from bleak to utterly disastrous for the Pac-12 Conference. All said and done, only four teams remain with the Conference: Washington State, Oregon State, Stanford and California. 

The rest of the Pac packed their bags and head onto greener pastures, or at least that is what they believe. Oregon and Washington are set to join the Big Ten alongside the previously announced USC and UCLA, with Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah joining the Big 12. 

While the move makes sense, leaving the sinking ship that is the Pac-12, the treatment of the teams left behind, the scope beyond football and the impact that it has is overlooked by the heads of these universities. 

Even though joining the Big 10 and Big 12, respectively, will lead to more money being made available to spend on the athletic departments, it erases history and respect to student-athletes, fans and supporters, all while joining Conferences where things only will get worse.

In the wake of the other schools’ departure, WSU President Kirk Shulz and Director of Athletics Pat Chun released a statement.

“We are disappointed with the recent decisions by some of our Pac-12 peers. While we had hoped that our membership would remain together, this outcome was always a possibility, and we have been working diligently to determine what is next for Washington State Athletics. We’ve prepared for numerous scenarios, including our current situation. With exceptional student-athletes, a strong Cougar tradition and incredible support from our fans, donors and alumni, we will chart the best path forward together,” the statement read. 

This mass departure and dismantling of a Conference, something that happened with a massive domino effect, is not something that is completely new or exempt from happening again. Give it a decade. Are the Big 10 and Big 12 going to look the same? Probably not. 

Money talks and it is going to cause a further divide in the college football world. At the end of the day, that is why this happened, college football. The decision to break up the Pac-12 completely ignores the various other athletic programs available at these schools, all for the benefit of the football programs. 

It is true, football makes the most money; it attracts the highest donors and most views. At the end of the day, these decisions should have been bigger than that. 

The move negatively affects student-athletes in baseball, softball, volleyball, basketball, golf, tennis and more. It effectively takes the student out of the athlete, forcing more brutal travel schedules and more days out of the classroom. 

This is embarrassing for institutions that try to pride themselves on the academic side of their athletics publicly. The travel also impacts the ability of these student-athletes to see their families and many have taken to social media to note that proximity to home and having their family watch them play is imperative to their decision to even go to these schools.  

“I chose to play in the PAC-12 because of the ability to play close to home and in front of family. I chose the PAC, so my family didn’t have to worry about far travel or giving up all their vacation time just to come [to] see me. This affects athletes in every sport and academics,” ASU softball player Shannon Cunningham wrote on X. 

That leaves these individuals with a severe negative impact on their mental health as their reasons to choose their school are being undermined in the name of money and football, or they transfer, which hurts the school. 

“Anyone going to talk about all the other sports that play multiple games in a weekend? What happened to [the] mental health of student-athletes being important? The balance of practice, travel, school, and having a social life is already hard enough. Why add even more stress,” Oregon softball player Morgan Scott wrote on X. 

Even for football, needing to travel across the country to play in their athletics on a more consistent basis poses a threat for the integrity of their education, making it more difficult to study and do well in school properly. 

It is easy to forget that only 1.6% of college football players make the NFL, according to the NFL

If the other 97.4% of athletes do not make the NFL, is it worth the risk of a hindered education just to make the name on the front of their jersey more money? It is clear to fans that these universities have their own interest in mind, hiding behind the veil that is the student-athletes best interest.  

“I woke up as a kid and the Rose Bowl was Big Ten/Pac-12 – Pac-10 back then. That was a big deal. Traveling across the country, you look at the NFL. They’ve got tons of research on how hard that is. And that’s for professional athletes. For student-athletes, the guys have gotta come back and take an exam and miss class. I think it’s tremendously difficult,” said Jake Dickert, Washington State football head coach. 

Erasure of history and so many opportunities to create meaningful memories is yet another consequence of the move. For Cougs, this likely spells the end of the Apple Cup, or at least the Apple Cup that we have been used to for the past century. 

Erik Lacitis, a Seattle Times staff reporter, wrote an article based on a comment asking what memories UW will be able to create in the Midwest in their new Conference. 

The idea is clearly there that leaving behind WSU is a bigger deal than the Huskies are trying to make it out to be. 

UW president Ana Mari Cauce said that the Huskies are still committed to the history of the Apple Cup and playing the Cougs in more than just football, so at least there is that. 

“We are proud of our rich history with the Pac-12 and for more than a year have worked hard to find a viable path that would keep it together. I have tremendous admiration and respect for my Pac-12 colleagues. Ultimately, however, the opportunities and stability offered by the Big Ten are unmatched,” Cauce said. “Even with this move, we remain committed to the Apple Cup and to competing with WSU across all of our sports.”

Even so, will WSU even want to continue the rivalry, given the ease with which UW left the Cougs in the dust? It is easy to argue that the rivalry means more to Coug fans than Husky fans, but Cougs fans will root for the Cougs no matter what, so that does not really matter. 

A couple of things are adding confusion to just how the final four of the Pac-12 have been left without a new Conference. Firstly, WSU is being undervalued as a program. If football is the end goal, that is OK, but it is not like Cougar football is a pushover. 

WSU averaged 1.59 million viewers per game from 2015–19 and 2021. That is more than Colorado, Utah, Arizona State and Arizona, according to The Athletic.

The Cougs get viewers. People like watching WSU football. It is no secret. Yet still, it is as if the Cougs are in the bottom of the Conference in viewership and getting left behind was a foregone conclusion. 

Broadening the scope, WSU viewership ranked 8th among all ACC/B10/P12 schools from 2012–21, and they have made seven straight bowl games and made a bowl game in eight of the past nine eligible seasons. 

Then there is Stanford, a prestigious and dominant school beyond football. Ignoring academics, the Cardinal are so good in so many sports that any Conference should be begging to get them to join. 

Stanford has 134 NCAA Championships and 296 Olympic medals, while Oregon only has 34 and 32, respectively. Washington only has 11 and 81, respectively. But their football team is bigger, so it all makes sense. 

Hopefully, everything will work out for the four teams left without a distinct end in sight. WSU, OSU, STAN and CAL deserve better, but life is not always sunshine and rainbows.

But it’s Go Cougs. Forever and always.

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About the Contributor
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.

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  • Garith KrauseAug 9, 2023 at 10:58 am

    Very sad for PAC 12 demise. Cougs will survive and prosper over time. Unfortunately, in the short run, we will see big changes in the Coug Sports program. However, do think there may be some bright spots, one of which is recruiting might even get better if some of the good players on the west coast don’t want to play for the Globe Trotting teams. WSU might end up as a strong Independent Team.. Large number of the departing teams might be considered the “Big Dogs” in the PAC 12, but in the larger conferences end up as also rans. Might be tough on their mental health. I think some of those teams might head back west after a few years.
    WSU 65

  • Greg SaloAug 8, 2023 at 2:08 pm

    Well said!

  • Gayle BeacockAug 8, 2023 at 10:29 am

    Great article!

  • Maggie LindenAug 7, 2023 at 3:28 pm

    I’m a Cal graduate with a Coug grad for a granddaughter. I love both schools but I’ll say WSU fans are a real joy to behold. I’m hope both schools continue their lofty tradition… neither deserve this. Go Bears Go Cougs