Leaders of the Pac‑12’s two remaining universities used Saturday’s matchup of their nationally ranked football programs to underscore the strong athletic competitiveness both bring to the collegiate sports landscape at a time of continuing uncertainty over conference realignment.
“This is not a case of under-performing teams being relegated,” Washington State University President Kirk Schulz said. “In fact, these are two of the best college football programs in the country going head-to-head in a sold-out stadium on national television this weekend.”
Schulz, along with WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun, Oregon State University President Jayathi Murthy and OSU Athletic Director Scott Barnes met with national and regional news media for a wide-ranging conversation Thursday. They re‑affirmed that while both will be competing hard against each other on the field, they remain united in their commitment to finding the best conference solution going forward given the looming departures of 10 of the 12 conference partners.
“We are fiercely competitive rivals on the field — and as a proud member of Beaver Nation, I am cheering loudly for a big win for the Beavers on Saturday,” Murthy said. “But I will say we stand united in our mission and our values, and in our total commitment to our students, student-athletes, to our states and to our communities.”
Both football programs are undefeated this season and are ranked among the best college teams in the nation. Oregon State is ranked 14th and WSU is at No. 21 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 football poll. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Gesa Field on the Pullman campus and the game is being broadcast by Fox Sports.
Fans need to know that we are leaving no stone unturned. Together we are aggressively pursuing all options.WSU System President Kirk Schulz
“Let’s be clear — WSU and OSU are in this situation not because of the quality of our athletic programs, but because of the size of our media markets,” Schulz said. “Fans need to know that we are leaving no stone unturned. Together we are aggressively pursuing all options.”
The Pac‑12 has long been among the NCAA’s Power 5 conferences. But as rival conferences look to expand and secure lucrative broadcast deals, Pac‑12 programs have been recruited away, particularly those within the largest media markets. The announced departures are set to take effect next season.
WSU and OSU are assessing all options, ranging from evaluating recruiting pitches from other conferences to rebuilding the Pac‑12. Schulz and Murthy said they understand the anxiety among students, fans and others, but asked for patience as they gather needed information and explore options to arrive at the best solution.
Earlier this month, the two filed suit against the Pac‑12 in an effort to clarify whether departing universities should be permitted to continue voting on issues affecting the future of the conference. Key to the dispute are conflict-of-interest questions and whether the 10 departing schools could hamper or even prevent the two remaining schools from trying to rebuild the conference.
“Ultimately” Schulz said, “we expect transparent and principled discussions with the departing schools to establish a just process and fair terms for their departure.”
A video recording of the full discussion can be viewed above.
More information about WSU’s efforts amid conference realignment can be found on the Office of the President’s website.