Dear Cougar Nation,
The last few weeks have been tumultuous for Washington State University and the Pac‑12 Conference. The decision by the University of Washington and the University of Oregon to accept offers to join the Big Ten Conference sealed the fate of the Pac‑12. By the end of the day on Friday, only four members of the Pac‑12 remained — Washington State, Oregon State, Cal‑Berkeley, and Stanford.
The Pac‑12 Board of Directors is composed of all the sitting presidents and chancellors of the current member institutions, and we met 30 times over the past 12 months in an attempt to work out a future media rights deal that all conference members found suitable. During this time, we had multiple media partners spend months discussing media deals only to drop out at the last minute, mostly due to the rapidly changing sports media environment.
On Tuesday, Commissioner George Kliavkoff presented the Board of Directors with an innovative and forward-looking partnership proposal with Apple. The approach proposed by Apple was a subscription-based model that would utilize Apple TV for streaming athletic contests. This model carried with it an opportunity to significantly grow the revenue coming into each school over the next several years. As an Apple user and enthusiast, I looked forward to seeing how we could integrate Pac‑12 sports into the Apple environment — similar to what they have successfully achieved with Major League Soccer.
The guaranteed annual money from this proposal was not at the current level of support that all schools receive, but there was a general acknowledgment that streaming Pac‑12 media was clearly the direction media consumption was going. After several board meetings and robust discussion among all nine schools, we finished our board meeting on Thursday evening with a strong feeling of staying together, pursuing a new partnership with Apple, and moving forward with conference expansion.
On Friday morning, we were shocked when the University of Washington and the University of Oregon announced they had accepted Big Ten invitations. I genuinely felt that on Friday morning we would sign the needed paperwork, finalize the deal with Apple, and move the Pac‑12 toward a new and brighter future.
Immediately after the decision, Pat Chun and I started reaching out to colleagues around the nation to start working on options for Cougar Athletics. We talked with multiple conference commissioners, presidents and chancellors, athletic directors, and other leaders in college athletics. These efforts continued through the weekend — and will continue until we find a suitable home for Washington State athletics. I am in regular contact with the leaders from the remaining Pac‑12 schools and will continue to do so moving forward.
Because these conversations are often confidential, we are not able to provide updates on whom we are talking to and when. At this point, we are pursuing every possible opportunity to ensure that we have multiple options moving forward.
I will be standing up a small group of faculty, staff, athletic administrators, and student leaders to provide feedback on conference options for WSU as our pathway forward becomes more clear in the days and weeks ahead. This group will be announced to the Cougar community by the end of the week.
I know many of you are angry and upset by the situation WSU finds itself in — and it is tempting to lash out. As President of WSU, my responsibility at this time is to work with Pat Chun on as many options as possible for Cougar Athletics moving forward — taking into account things like institutional fit, geography and travel costs, competitiveness, and financial security.
What can you do to help?
- Regardless of our future conference affiliation, I ask that you continue to support our 600+ WSU student-athletes, other fans, and our coaches.
- Embrace our new future as college athletics continues to go through significant and unprecedented changes.
- Be patient as we explore our next conference affiliation — and know that we want to take the time to find the right place for Cougar Athletics.
Whatever solution we come up with, it will be different moving forward. Washington State has been a member of the same athletic conference since 1917, which has served us very well over the past 106 years. I ask for your support over the coming days, weeks, and months as we work diligently to find the right home for Cougar Athletics.
KIRK H. SCHULZ
President, WSU System