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WSU Cougars, OSU Beavers last two standing in Pac-2 Conference

Washington State University President Kirk Schulz talks about the Cougars' conference options in athletics during a recent online interview.
Washington State University YouTube screenshot
Washington State University President Kirk Schulz talks about the Cougars' conference options in athletics during a recent online interview.

The future of athletics at Washington State University got a little murkier Friday.

ESPN reports the Atlantic Coast Conference has voted to admit two of the remaining four teams in the Pacific-12 Conference, of which Washington State has been a member for decades.

The ACC is an East Coast conference, but this morning its university presidents voted to go west and add two Pac-12 schools, Cal-Berkeley and Stanford, as well as one Texas school, Southern Methodist.

This is the latest plundering of a league that has billed itself as the Conference of Champions. The University of Southern California, UCLA and the universities of Washington and Oregon are headed to the Big-10. The universities of Colorado, Utah and Arizona as well as Arizona State are going to the Big-12. All of those moves will take effect in time for the ’24-’25 sports season.

That leaves WSU and Oregon State as the Pac-2. Administrators at both schools are exploring options, some of which may have disappeared with Stanford and California’s apparent move to the ACC.

WSU President Kirk Schulz says the two Northwest universities could invite members of other conferences to join them or they could join other leagues. They’ve received overtures from the Mountain West and the American Athletic Conferences.

“Each of those we’re pursuing in parallel pathways,” Schulz said in a recent online interview with WSU Regent Enrique Cerna. “We want to be in a position where we can control our own destiny as an institution and are not dependent on anybody else and we want to be in a conference and a place where we can win conference championships.”

Schulz has created an advisory committee to help him and Athletic Director Pat Chun vet the options. He says they want WSU to have a stable conference home that’s not subject to the whims of the other members. They also want a league that doesn’t require its student-athletes to consistently travel thousands of miles to play their fellow members’ teams.

Wherever the Cougars and the Beavers land, Schulz says it doesn’t mean the end of college football and the traditions that go along with it.

“Regardless of conference affiliation, next August we’re still playing Cougar football,” he said. “We’re still going to have that same atmosphere, the tailgates, the RVs. It’s still going to be an important part of our student experience and I think that there’s a sense of loss.

"It won’t be Oregon or it won’t be Washington, but I just want to remind everybody that there are a lot of schools out there that are excellent universities that have really great athletics traditions and a very passionate fanbase. I think it’s going to take some adjustment, but I think those things are still going to be there," he said.

The Cougars and their Pac-12 brethren have one more season together. For Washington State, that season opens Saturday afternoon in Fort Collins, Colorado against Colorado State. The home opener is September 9 against the University of Wisconsin.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.