Washington State University (WSU) and Oregon State University (OSU) have reached an agreement with the 10 Pac-12 schools departing for the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences, ending a months-long legal dispute over control and revenue distribution of the Pac-12 conference.
Settlement Ends Litigation Between Schools
The agreement ends litigation that began in August when USC and UCLA announced they would be leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024. The 10 departing schools filed a lawsuit in October challenging WSU and OSU’s control of the conference.
However, WSU and OSU scored legal victories that upheld their control. The Washington Supreme Court declining to review the Pac-12’s appeal in December was seen as the final say giving the two schools full authority over the conference.
Facing dim prospects in court, the 10 schools reached an agreement with WSU and OSU regarding conference revenues. The deal allows the schools to exit the conference at the end of the academic year while resolving all outstanding issues.
Departing Schools Will Receive Full 2023 Revenue Share
A key component of the settlement is an agreement on distribution of revenues for 2023. The 10 departing universities will receive a full share of all conference revenue for 2023.
Initial projections estimated the per-school distribution at $33-50 million next year. However, after the Pac-12’s new media rights deals that number could exceed $60 million. Exact figures are still to be determined.
WSU, OSU Take Over Pac-12 Operations
With the 10 schools now essentially lame-duck members, WSU and OSU will take over Pac-12 management and media rights negotiations immediately. The Pac-12 will operate as a two-school conference in 2024 and beyond.
WSU President Kirk Shultz and OSU President Jayathi Murthy released a joint statement expressing a desire to rebuild the conference by adding new members:
“We look forward to collaborating with our Pac-12 peers to rebuild the conference and maintain the premiere student-athlete experience for many years to come.”
Potential Pac-14 Members
|San Diego State
Conference realignment experts expect WSU and OSU to target regional schools from the Mountain West and AAC to form a 14-team conference by 2024. Mountain West powers Boise State and San Diego State are seen as top expansion candidates.
What Comes Next For the Pac-12 and Its Former Members
While the Pac-12 dispute may be settled, realignment upheaval in college sports is far from over. Several key questions remain:
- How will the Big Ten and SEC’s addition of Pac-12 schools impact their media rights valuations?
- Which schools will WSU and OSU add to rebuild the Pac-12?
- Will the weakened Big 12 look to add Pac-12 leftovers like Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, and Colorado?
Most experts believe the loss of major brands like USC and Washington will lead to a substantially smaller media rights valuation for a rebuilt Pac-12 during upcoming negotiations. However, the conference’s outlook could shift if WSU and OSU secure a deal with an established media partner like Fox, who will be losing key Pac-12 content.
Additionally, further realignment dominos could still fall if the weakened Big 12 pursues some of the highest-profile Pac-12 leftovers. Most insiders expect the ultimate resolution around realignment to play out over 2-3 years.
While the Pac-12 battle appears resolved, the transformations in college sports are far from over.
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