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

Options emerging for Cougs amidst Conference uncertainty

Mountain West, ACC, AAC, Big 12 rumors swirling
It+is+nearing+closer+to+an+arbitrary+deadline+for+the+Cougs+to+pick+their+next+home+
GRACIE ROGERS
It is nearing closer to an arbitrary deadline for the Cougs to pick their next home

Each passing day that WSU is without a Conference provides unparalleled uncertainty of the future of all athletics programs. Despite the uncertainty, there are several potential avenues that the Cougs have available or have been rumored to have available after the Pac-12’s collapse

While WSU might look to rebuild the Conference with the remaining Oregon State, Stanford and Cal, the ladder two are nearly set to join the ACC

It is unclear whether or not the Cougs will end up in a Group of Five, a Power 5 or try to rebuild the Pac-12 Conference. The only known thing about the future is that funding will take a hit and for a university whose athletics debt has been over $100 million, reducing income is not ideal.

Nonetheless, here are the Conference options:

Mountain West 

In most terms, the Mountain West is a clear and seamless transition for the Cougs — in all terms except financial. Geographically, it makes the most sense to limit travel costs and provide the best schedules for student-athletes, but financially it will hurt. 

The conference has media rights deals with Fox and CBS through 2026, worth about $3.7 million per full-member school annually. The current Pac-12 media deal pays the Cougs $37 million annually, according to The Athletic. 

Their motivation to get the Cougs and Beavers to join benefits the Mountain West’s case. Conference leadership traveled to Pullman Aug. 24 to pitch their vision of alignment and how the Cougs will benefit from joining, according to WSU Insider.  

AAC

While joining the AAC poses the unfortunate challenge of travel, as it comprises teams further east than the Mountain West, but there is more money and better opportunities. Despite being a Group of Five, the teams, on average, have higher coaching salaries and athletic budgets than the Mountain West, according to The Athletic.  

Conference leadership is set to visit WSU next week, pitching their Conference to the Cougs and OSU in hopes of luring them. With Stanford and Cal looking likely to join the ACC, the AAC may be the best option for WSU’s future relevancy and bowl game opportunities. 

The ?’s 

While the Mountain West and AAC poise to be the likely outcomes, there is a trio of destinations that have been rumored in one way or another in recent weeks as potential destinations. 

All three have risks and benefits compared to outright dropping to a Group of Five. They are far more unlikely to prosper as the actual destination. 

Both the ACC and Big 12 were not listed as potential options for WSU by President Kirk Schulz, but separate rumors have linked them to the Conferences. 

Rebuilt Pac

Poaching teams from Group of Five schools to rebuild the Pac-12 is still an option, but likely goes completely out the window if Stanford and Cal leave. Without the two California teams, WSU and OSU retain non-zero but not great leverage in attempts to secure media deals. 

Even if they choose this route, getting teams to leave the security of their Conferences and leave their rivalries behind is not an easy endeavor, which is made more difficult by the timeline that the Cougs and Beavers must be on. 

This is not the time to wait around or see how things develop. Each passing day without Conference certainty is a day where budgeting, recruiting and scheduling become more difficult. 

ACC

With Stanford and Cal near certainly joining the Conference, the Cougs and Beavs might be thrown a bone to save them from a sunken ship. The American Athletic Conference also has interest in expanding West and adding all four Pac-12 teams, a person with direct knowledge of that league’s internal discussion told the AP on condition of anonymity.

While they won’t get a full slot of money, the potential for earnings to grow past what they have received from the Pac-12 is there, a worthwhile thing to consider given the recent developments of WSU financials. 

Big 12 

WSU joining the Big 12 is extremely unlikely and would take a miracle. But, there is a small glimmer of hope. The Big 12 is the best possible destination as they the Cougs would enter with several other former Pac-12 Conference teams and have the potential for financial gain. 

But for the Conference to offer a position to the Cougs, it might take the university proving their worth in one way or another, a difficult task given the urgency of finding a home for the 2024 season and beyond. 

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About the Contributors
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 2023 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.
GRACIE ROGERS, Evergreen Illustration editor
Gracie Rogers is a graphic illustrator for the Daily Evergreen. She is a senior Digital Technology & Culture major from Pullman, Washington. Gracie started working for the Daily Evergreen back in Spring 2022.