Oregon State and Washington State have come to an agreement in principle with the 10 departing Pac-12 universities that will end ongoing litigation related to control of the conference, the 12 universities announced Thursday.
The agreement comes in the wake of the Washington state supreme court’s decision last week not to review a lower court’s decision that granted control of the Pac-12 board of directors to OSU and WSU.
As part of the agreement, the 10 departing schools will forfeit an undisclosed portion of revenue distributions over the rest of the 2023-24 school year and have provided “specific guarantees against potential future liabilities.”
“In September, as the two remaining members of the Pac-12 Conference, Oregon State University and Washington State University were forced to act swiftly to protect the future viability of the Pac-12. Thanks to the determination and strength of Beaver Nation and Cougar Nation and the excellence of our student-athletes, coaches and staff, we are now closer to achieving our goal,” OSU president Jayathi Murthy and WSU president Kirk Schultz said in a joint statement. “Today’s news marks a huge victory for our universities and a significant step toward stabilizing the Pac-12 Conference and preserving its 108-year legacy.”
The Pac-12 will retain all its assets and future revenues, the presidents added.
This development allows all involved parties to move forward and, for OSU and WSU in particular, a better sense of what their financial picture will look like as they begin the process to rebuild the Pac-12.
Earlier this month, OSU and WSU announced it had come to a scheduling agreement with the Mountain West Conference to play six MWC opponents in football during the 2024 season. They are also close to finalizing an affiliate agreement with the West Coast Conference to host most of their other sports, most notably men’s and women’s basketball. It’s possible the agreement with the WCC could be announced as early as this week, sources told ESPN.
Neither of those arrangements are expected to last beyond two seasons, while the OSU and WSU keep the Pac-12 afloat.
For a conference to exist, the NCAA requires “at least seven active Division I members,” all of which must sponsor men’s and women’s basketball, and for the conference to sponsor at least 12 Division I sports, among other requirements. In the case of departures, the bylaws allow a conference a two-year grace period in which it can exist without the minimum number of schools.
After the two-year period, it is expected that OSU and WSU will have been able to recruit enough new members to meet NCAA requirements, with one possibility being a so-called reverse merger with teams from the Mountain West.
“This agreement ensures that the future of the Pac-12 will be decided by the schools that are staying, not those that are leaving,” Murthy and Schulz said. “We look forward to what the future holds for our universities, our student-athletes, the Pac-12 Conference and millions of fans.”
There are other arrangements that will need to be made for both athletic departments for next season. For example, the WCC does not offer track and field or swimming, meaning those sports still do not have a clear landing spot.
One possibility for the WSU women’s swimming team would be for the Cougars to compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, which hosts 11 sports and has affiliate members from schools all over the country – including Cal, Stanford, UCLA and USC — but is mainly made up of schools on the West Coast.