It was called the Pac-2 Championship. No game this season will represent the particular state of college realignment better — or more depressingly — than this showdown. The Beavers and Cougars are top 25 teams, but they are in an existential quandary. If you act like merit is the foundation of this sport, look at these schools and ask yourself why they deserve such insecurity.
“Ironically, this is not a relegation of two underperforming teams,” said Washington State President Kirk Schulz.
These are two remote locations that are falsely portrayed as unattractive in an environment dominated by the television market. Media executives have gained disproportionate influence and are acting as puppet masters because universities are money-hungry, desperate for relevance and willing to make extreme, fundamental concessions.
Over the last 14 months, Oregon State and Washington State have seen their conferences go from strength to strength. From 12 to 10. Nine. Seven. Four. Two. The worst day was August 5, when five teams departed, including their Northwestern siblings Oregon and Washington.
“The whole idea that a conference that has been around for over 100 years literally destroys itself in one afternoon is not in any book that you look at,” Schulz said.
So they looked at each other. When California and Stanford committed to joining the ACC three weeks ago, Oregon State and Washington State were officially a duo. They are either the last teams remaining or the two left behind. No matter how you look at them, they are still here. They know they belong to powerful conference schools, even if the realignment has stripped their conference of most of their power.
“Although the current state of the Pac-12 Conference was not determined by us, we refuse to let it define us,” Schulz said. “Oregon State University and Washington State University are both land-grant schools. Our task is to solve the most sensitive problems facing our states. And we will solve this problem too.”
Despite all the determination, there is no clear path to stability. They filed a lawsuit against the conference and its commissioner, George Kliavkoff, to make it clear that their schools have decision-making authority. They obtained an injunction last week that prevented the withdrawing Pac-12 schools from holding a scheduled conference session. Oregon State and Washington State want to preserve the conference as an active brand, retain all assets and intellectual property and eliminate the possibility that their departing partners will drop out of the conference because they want a clean break.
During a virtual press conference with the athletic directors and presidents of both schools, leaders indicated they may have a reasonable sense of their legal status and the feasibility of maintaining the Pac-12 within the next 30 days. Speculation about the future was rife: a jump to the Mountain West and the dissolution of the conference; Merging with Mountain West under the Pac-12 banner; Under NCAA bylaws, the organization will operate as a two-team conference for up to two years and then gradually rebuild.
Yahoo Sports Writer Ross Dellenger explored the idea of a promotion-relegation agreement between the Mountain West and a revamped Pac-12 with insight from an unnamed Mountain West AD. On Thursday, Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes said of the European soccer model: “It’s definitely worth investigating.”
Here’s how college sports have changed following conference realignment
Until there is a solution, every idea is worth exploring. Spend an hour with these administrators and they inspire belief that they will make what they can out of a bad situation. They are agile thinkers. They are dark. They are subversive and fight against a system that apparently cannot tolerate allowing them to be collateral damage. And in each other they have found a soul mate. These are outsider schools that should not be underestimated. While they don’t have endless resources, they are good football programs that highlight greatness from time to time. Their lack of privilege is their advantage.
They also help make college sports a major sports enterprise. The heart of college athletics can be places like Austin; Lexington, Ky.; and Columbus, Ohio. But if you’re looking for soul searching, you have to visit Pullman, Washington, and Corvallis, Oregon. You’re more likely to find them in Manhattan, Kansas, than New York City. Dynasties can be built in Storrs, Connecticut. The powerful SEC has nine members from cities with at least 100,000 residents, but it wouldn’t be as rich without Auburn, Alabama, and the Mississippi cities of Oxford and Starkville.
It’s dangerously simplistic to believe that viewer intrigue is limited to major television markets and well-known institutions. Washington State is just a stone’s throw from Idaho, but with a huge base of alumni living in Western Washington, the Cougars have a captive, quantifiable audience in Seattle. The Beavers are a similar factor in Portland. Although these programs are not a conference, they are beneficial.
Oregon State and Washington State are in danger of falling victim to a weakening of regionalism, something the conferences will regret sooner than they realize. Still, they fight.
“I was in Eastern Washington last week and, my goodness, there was a huge outpouring of support in every town there,” said Oregon State President Jayathi Murthy. “You’re talking about people who are worried about their identity, and in a strange way this has actually solidified our identity and brought us so much closer to each other.”
Deserted Washington State creates a new, new category in field storm
The No. 21 Cougars and No. 14 Beavers meet at Martin Stadium on Saturday. They are the only top 25 teams not named Notre Dame to elect independence and not have a permanent position in a power conference after this season. So 18 minutes before kickoff, Washington State will make an uncharacteristic gesture. The band will perform Oregon State’s fight song.
“As a mark of respect, we ask our fans to applaud this fight song because the two universities fight together,” said Washington State athletic director Pat Chun.
Together they plunged into the unknown. They also assumed the obvious.
When the athletic directors and presidents spoke, they shared the same virtual background. It was a simple background, white on gray, with images of their Cougar and Beaver logos.
The Pac-2 isn’t just a joke. It’s a couple. Unlike other fragile partnerships in college football, neither side fears a knife attack in the back.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2023/09/23/pac-2-oregon-state-washington-state/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_homepage Oregon State, Washington State and the mighty Pac-2 aren’t going away