Oregon State and Washington State are engaging with the Mountain West on a potential scheduling partnership, sources close to the negotiations confirm to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. The two remaining schools in the Pac-12 Conference have engaged with the MWC on everything from a long-term partnership to even a merger far down the line.
“That’s the preference. It’s not a done deal,” one of the sources told Dodd.
Multiple scheduling models have been discussed, including a 7+1 setup that would involve MWC schools playing seven league games and a matchup against one of the Pac-2, according to Yahoo Sports, which first reported the negotiations. The latter game would not count toward Mountain West standings, and neither Oregon State nor Washington State would be eligible for the league championship. Additionally, they would not be eligible for automatic bids in the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff.
In return, the Mountain West would receive significant financial compensation. The league’s existing television contract pays approximately $4 million per year, while Oregon State and Washington State have received more than $20 million in television payouts from the Pac-12.
The league does not have a television contract that extends beyond the 2023 season, while the Mountain West, which appears to be the strongest Group of Five conference entering 2024, sees its deal with Fox and CBS Sports Network come up in 2025 — hence why a potential two-year agreement makes sense as a bridge deal for all parties.
It’s not clear if either of the current partners would pay for what would be 12 additional games of Mountain West inventory.
Down the road, the partnership could lead to a full merger of the two conferences. However, in the short term, the Beavers and Cougars are expected to move forward as a two-team conference. The NCAA allows a two-year grace period for schools to reach the required eight-member mark to exist as a conference.
The partnership, if it comes about, would boost the Mountain West’s schedule strength in the new 12-team playoff. The CFP commissioners are already considering adjusting automatic qualifications from the top six-ranked conference champions to the top five. The so-called “5+7” model is a reaction to the dissolution of the Pac-12.
If this scheduling agreement is finalized, the Beavers and Cougars would most likely be considered independents having the same access as Notre Dame, Army, UConn and UMass. In the new 12-team playoff, independents aren not eligible for automatic qualification because they do not play in a conference. Instead, they need to qualify as one of the seven-highest ranked programs regardless of conference affiliation.
Earlier this week, Oregon State and Washington State won an important victory in Whitman County (Washington) court., making them the only voting members of the Pac-12 board. The decision could give the two schools access to Pac-12 revenue from the Rose Bowl, March Madness payouts and more totaling as much as $500 million.
The University of Washington, on behalf of the 10 departing Pac-12 schools, filed a motion in the Washington Supreme Court to block the decision. Notably, USC and UCLA were removed as members of the board after previously announcing plans to join the Big Ten.
“We are disappointed with the decision and are immediately seeking review in the Washington Supreme Court and requesting to put on hold implementation of this decision,” the 10 other schools said in a statement. “As members of the Pac-12, participating in ongoing and scheduled competitions, we are members of the board under the Pac-12 bylaws.”
Oregon State and Washington State still have a fiduciary responsibility to the remaining Pac-12 members, meaning that they will not simply be able to seize money owed to the departing programs. However, the Pac-2 will be able to set the league’s agenda and potentially use existing assets to set up the future of the league.