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Washington State AD blasts Pac-12’s ‘poor leadership’ as Stanford, Cal try to find landing spot

Mountain West may be Cougars’ best option

By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer
Published: August 9, 2023, 5:00pm

Washington State athletic director Pat Chun blasted the “poor leadership” that has led the Pac-12 to the brink of extinction on Wednesday and said the Cougars have earned the right to be part of a Power Five conference as the chances of that happening appeared unlikely.

Meanwhile, Pac-12 members California and Stanford have been looking for an escape hatch to a Power Five league, reaching out to officials with the Big Ten and its schools even as the Atlantic Coast Conference ponders building out a West Wing, too.

Two people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that Cal and Stanford have been in contact with Big Ten officials and members of the conference in recent days, but the Big Ten has not so far been moved toward adding two more West Coast schools to go along with Southern California, UCLA, Oregon and Washington, which are set to join in 2024.

The two people spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity because neither the schools nor the conference were making their strategies and internal discussions public.

The ACC has this week been discussing whether to invite Cal and Stanford, plus possibly Dallas-based SMU from the American Athletic Conference. But as of Wednesday night, it was unclear if ACC presidents were prepared to expand the 15-school conference, which has no member farther west than Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish are a football independent but compete in the ACC in most other sports. The ACC’s westernmost football school is Louisville.

In Pullman, Chun held a Zoom call with reporters where he unloaded on the Pac-12, which has lost six schools over the last two weeks after failing to secure a media rights deal that provided revenue and exposure comparable to the other Power Five conferences.

Over the course of a little more than a week, Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah all announced they would leave the Pac-12 for the Big 12 after this school year.

“I think it’s been well documented that the last couple of weeks was a culmination of years of failed leadership, vision, failed implementation,” Chun said. “It isn’t one singular thing that led to the destruction of the Pac-12 as we know it. It was a bunch of decisions and failed strategies that put us in this place. That’s unfortunate because the ones who lose out on that are the student-athletes that go forward.”

Both the Mountain West and American Athletic Conference are interested in adding Washington State and Oregon State, but neither of those non-Power Five leagues would be able to provide nearly the same level of revenue those schools have been getting in the Pac-12.

Washington State is facing an $11 million deficit in athletics.

Chun said Washington State is exploring every option.

“We are Power Five school. Our performance indicates that we are a Power Five school. We’re going to do our best to continue to compete at that level. And that’s really our goal going forward,” Chun said.

Washington State President Kirk Schulz said in an interview with ESPN on Wednesday the school has been in conversations with the Mountain West and that may turn out to be the Cougars’ best option.

“Economics have never impacted our ability to perform at Washington State. I think one of our staff members very acutely pointed out to me that nothing has changed for Washington State,” Chun said. “We continue to battle against schools that have higher resources than us. We continue to battle against what people determine we should be based on the size of our TV market. And that has not changed for Washington State and we’ll continue to battle.”

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AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed to this report.

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