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WSU president Schulz ‘shocked’ to hear news of Pac-12’s defections

By Greg Woods, The Spokesman-Review
Published: August 8, 2023, 8:08am

PULLMAN — Washington State president Kirk Schulz has spoken.

In the aftermath of Washington and Oregon’s defection to the Big Ten, all but dismantling the Pac-12, university president Kirk Schulz said he was “shocked” to hear the news in a statement released Monday evening.

In the statement, Schulz confirmed that on Aug. 1, Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff presented the conference’s board of directors with a new media rights deal via Apple, which would help keep the conference together as its current deal is set to expire after this season. The directors, Schulz wrote, all seemed to agree on the deal.

That’s when Oregon and Washington reversed course, which is when Schulz and athletic director Pat Chun started doing what they say they are now: “We talked with multiple conference commissioners, presidents and chancellors, athletic directors, and other leaders in college athletics. These efforts continued through the weekend — and will continue until we find a suitable home for Washington State athletics. I am in regular contact with the leaders from the remaining Pac-12 schools and will continue to do so moving forward.”

Schulz added that he plans to assemble a group of faculty, staff, athletic administrators and student leaders “to provide feedback on conference options for WSU as our pathway forward becomes more clear in the days and weeks ahead.” That group, Schulz wrote, will be shared with the public by the end of the week.

The statement in full:

“Dear Cougar Nation,

The last few weeks have been tumultuous for Washington State University and the Pac-12 Conference. The decision by the University of Washington and the University of Oregon to accept offers to join the Big Ten Conference sealed the fate of the Pac-12. By the end of the day on Friday, only four members of the Pac-12 remained — Washington State, Oregon State, Cal-Berkeley, and Stanford.

The Pac-12 Board of Directors is composed of all the sitting presidents and chancellors of the current member institutions, and we met 30 times over the past 12 months in an attempt to work out a future media rights deal that all conference members found suitable. During this time, we had multiple media partners spend months discussing media deals only to drop out at the last minute, mostly due to the rapidly changing sports media environment.

On Tuesday, Commissioner George Kliavkoff presented the Board of Directors with an innovative and forward-looking partnership proposal with Apple. The approach proposed by Apple was a subscription-based model that would utilize Apple TV for streaming athletic contests. This model carried with it an opportunity to significantly grow the revenue coming into each school over the next several years. As an Apple user and enthusiast, I looked forward to seeing how we could integrate Pac-12 sports into the Apple environment — similar to what they have successfully achieved with Major League Soccer.

The guaranteed annual money from this proposal was not at the current level of support that all schools receive, but there was a general acknowledgment that streaming Pac-12 media was clearly the direction media consumption was going. After several board meetings and robust discussion among all nine schools, we finished our board meeting on Thursday evening with a strong feeling of staying together, pursuing a new partnership with Apple, and moving forward with conference expansion.

On Friday morning, we were shocked when the University of Washington and the University of Oregon announced they had accepted Big Ten invitations. I genuinely felt that on Friday morning we would sign the needed paperwork, finalize the deal with Apple, and move the Pac-12 toward a new and brighter future.

Immediately after the decision, Pat Chun and I started reaching out to colleagues around the nation to start working on options for Cougar Athletics. We talked with multiple conference commissioners, presidents and chancellors, athletic directors, and other leaders in college athletics. These efforts continued through the weekend — and will continue until we find a suitable home for Washington State athletics. I am in regular contact with the leaders from the remaining Pac-12 schools and will continue to do so moving forward.

Because these conversations are often confidential, we are not able to provide updates on whom we are talking to and when. At this point, we are pursuing every possible opportunity to ensure that we have multiple options moving forward.

I will be standing up a small group of faculty, staff, athletic administrators, and student leaders to provide feedback on conference options for WSU as our pathway forward becomes more clear in the days and weeks ahead. This group will be announced to the Cougar community by the end of the week.

I know many of you are angry and upset by the situation WSU finds itself in — and it is tempting to lash out. As President of WSU, my responsibility at this time is to work with Pat Chun on as many options as possible for Cougar Athletics moving forward — taking into account things like institutional fit, geography and travel costs, competitiveness, and financial security.”

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