It finally happened... After weeks of palace intrigue in the halls of Tallahassee, Clemson, and Raleigh, Stanford, Cal, and SMU are headed to the now absurdly named Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). All three schools took cuts on media income to join the club, and it still seems like Florida State and Clemson will be looking for the exits in the near future, but in a world of Power 5 or bust, you do what you have to do.
The bust part of that last statement now squarely applies to Oregon State and Washington State. With the American Athletic Conference (AAC) releasing a statement earlier today disavowing any westward expansion, the options are dwindling. Mountain West Conference (MWC) seems like the most likely option at this point, with commissioner Gloria Nevarez publicly stating interest in expansion as recently as August 10th.
Whether it’s the MWC or another option, the drop in revenues for the Oregon State Athletic Department is going to be a hard pill to swallow. The school receives around $30M per year from the current Pac-12 TV deal (as noted in Ms. Nevarez’ quotes above), as compared to the $4M per year that MWC teams currently pull in. With OSU and WSU holding what’s left of the Pac-12 brand, there may be something to salvage there. There is even a wild scenario where the schools use a clause in NCAA bylines that give conferences two years to get back to 9 members to play the next two seasons as a two team conference (more here from Stewart Mandel at the Athletic, subscription required). There is also potential flexibility with donations, NIL money for recruits, etc. but it’s hard not to see a dramatic impact coming for some non-revenue generating sports in Corvallis in the coming years.
If we are looking for positives (which we are), Oregon State football has traditionally played above its recruiting rankings going back to the Mike Riley days. There may be a hit on the talent front, but the Beavers should still be a top tier contender in the MWC and with expanded playoffs coming the opportunities should still be there to maintain a national profile. Other sports such as men’s basketball should be able to take advantage of a different set of competition and while the at large berths to the tournament may not be as easy to find, that’s not something the Beavers have taken advantage of in the recent past. Baseball finds itself in a strange spot, but there is enough of a pedigree for Mitch Canham and company to keep their footing in recruiting, and there is more of a tradition of schools from smaller conferences making a mark nationally in the recent past (think Coastal Carolina, Cal State Fullerton, Rice, and Fresno State, all of whom have won national championships in the last 20 years).
Lastly, there is nothing settled in the world of legacy television and sports distribution rights. The day before the final death knell of the Pac-12, Disney pulled ESPN and other channels off of the Spectrum cable service in a dispute over rates. ESPN itself is facing uncertainty about its future, and streaming services continue to gain more ground. This is almost certainly not the last in the shifting sands of conference realignment, the best Oregon State can do is win games wherever they land and position themselves for the next round of re-alignment. That starts with beating San Jose State on Sunday. Doesn’t hurt to root for our fellow Pac-12 stalwart Washington State to beat Mountain West stalwart Colorado State too.