Dear Cougar Nation,
As we continue to navigate the evolving landscape of intercollegiate athletics and conference realignment, I would like to provide a brief update regarding our search for an appropriate landing spot for Cougar Athletics. I have had several people ask different questions since my last update — so let me provide some information that may be helpful.
What conference will Cougar Athletics play in next year?
This has yet to be determined. We are evaluating several options that will depend on a number of factors, including the resolution of pending litigation around the governance of the Pac‑12 Board of Directors. We are also continuing to engage in fact-finding conversations with the Mountain West Conference and will discuss a variety of different partnership opportunities and options with them.
Why did Washington State University and Oregon State University take legal action against the Pac-12 Conference?
As the two remaining members of the Pac‑12 Conference, Washington State University and Oregon State University have filed a legal action to confirm that they are the sole remaining board members of the conference’s governing body, consistent with the conference constitution and bylaws and how the conference has handled past notices of departure by other Pac‑12 schools.
What do WSU and OSU hope to achieve with their legal action?
What do WSU and OSU hope to achieve with their legal action?Acting to preserve options for the Pac‑12 and protect the conference’s resources is not only our responsibility as the sole remaining members of the Pac‑12 Conference but it also strengthens our ability to support the well‑being of our student-athletes, our local communities, and our states. There is no definitive timeline for our litigation, but we can expect that it will be several weeks or months before we have clear answers on contested issues.
What role do faculty play in our decision-making process?
We are proud to be working in close partnership with faculty on several projects related to Cougar Athletics. To date, members of the faculty senate play an integral role on both our athletics budget oversight committee and our athletic advisory committee. Their guidance, and the feedback we’ve received from faculty throughout this process, has been instrumental in evaluating institutional priorities and ensuring we are making decisions that are beneficial for everyone. I am continually grateful for their advocacy and commitment to shared governance.
What will be the financial impact on academic budgets within Washington State University due to the change in conference affiliation?
Presently, I do not expect there to be any direct impacts on academic budgets due to a change in conference affiliation. However, there will certainly be significant changes in our athletics budget since we will not receive the same level of media-rights funding in the future as we received from the Pac‑12 Conference previously. Any potential reductions as a result of this change in media-rights funding will be reflected in the athletics operating budget in FY2025. There is still considerable debate nationally on the role that conference affiliation plays in enrollment and prospective student decisions. It will be important to remind new incoming students that they will still have the opportunity to attend Cougar athletic events as part of the overall student experience on the WSU Pullman campus, regardless of where we land next year.
What is the status of the athletics deficit due to operating fund shortfalls accumulated over the past decade?
This accumulated deficit is covered by university reserves and as such is not money owed to anyone outside of Washington State University. Because of reporting requirements and state regulations that prohibit the use of state funds for intercollegiate athletics, we must maintain sufficient non‑tuition reserve funds to internally cover this deficit balance.
Are you in contact with Oregon State University regarding our conference affiliation?
We are in regular and ongoing contact with our counterparts at Oregon State on many different levels. We are working together on our legal strategy, financial planning, and conference affiliation options moving forward.
What will the impact be on the local Pullman community with a change in conference affiliation?
We will still have Cougar Football playing home games at GESA Field as we have for decades, still have exciting men’s and women’s basketball at Beasley Coliseum, still have large home crowds for volleyball and soccer, and will enjoy spring weekend crowds for Cougar Baseball. While our conference opponents will be different from the ones we’ve faced over the last 100 years, we still expect to have faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, and friends continue to spend weekends in Pullman shopping locally, staying in hotels, eating at local restaurants, and making a positive impact on the economy in Whitman County. Student-athletes, coaches, and fans will continue to travel to Pullman for competitions. And I am confident that our loyal Cougar fans will show up to support our Cougar student-athletes regardless of opponent and location — as they have for years.
How can I keep current on what is happening with the Pac‑12 and WSU?
We have placed all of our communications surrounding these issues on the Office of the President’s website. We will continue to keep the Cougar community informed as we have new and additional information.
What can I do to help?
I will continue to remind everyone that we need to be patient and ensure that we look at all of our options moving forward. Our conference affiliation is an important decision and one that we want to make carefully.As we consider our options, I would ask the Cougar community to continue to support and attend Cougar Athletics events. We’ve already seen capacity crowds at football, soccer, and volleyball and we are barely a month into the semester. Thank you to Cougs everywhere who have raised the flag and shown up for Washington State University. Our student-athletes feel your support, both in Pullman and on the road, and it makes a difference in the way they carry themselves, perform, and execute at the highest level.
I am grateful for the support of the Cougar community throughout this process and will continue to provide you with periodic updates on our future conference home.
If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to send me a note via email. I will attempt to supply an answer if possible.
Thank you and, as always, Go Cougs,
KIRK H. SCHULZ
President, WSU System