WSU president 'shocked' by Pac-12 exits, felt deal was imminent

ByHeather Dinich ESPN logo
Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Washington Statepresident Kirk Schulz, in a letter to "Cougar Nation" on Monday, said the recent decisions by Washingtonand Oregonto join the Big Ten "sealed the fate of the Pac-12," noting he was "shocked" on Friday morning when they announced their intent to leave.

Schulz, in his letter to the school community, confirmed that on Aug. 1, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff presented the league's presidents and chancellors with an Apple streaming deal for its television contract that expires after this school year; the approach proposed by Apple was to be a subscription-based model similar to its partnership with Major League Soccer.

It was the only deal left, as Schulz said multiple media partners dropped out "at the last minute, mostly due to the rapidly changing sports media environment."

Schulz called the streaming deal "an innovative and forward-looking partnership proposal with Apple" and said it provided an opportunity "to significantly grow the revenue coming into each school over the next several years."

Schulz said the guaranteed annual money "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," he wrote. "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."

Instead, within hours, Oregon and Washington had bolted for the Big Ten, andArizona, Arizona Stateand Utahannounced their intent to join the Big 12.

Washington president Ana Mari Cauce said Saturday that the program's departure from the Pac-12 was in part because the proposed TV rights deal didn't provide the long-term stability the school was seeking.

"When you have a deal that people are saying that one of the best aspects are that you can get out of it in two years, that tells you a lot," Cauce said. "This was about national visibility for our players, being on linear TV so they can be seen, so they could have national exposure."

The combined departures of eight schools -- including USC and UCLA to the Big Ten -- have left Washington State,Oregon State, Caland Stanford searching for landing spots. Schulz said he will comprise a small group of faculty, staff, athletic administrators and student leaders to provide feedback on conference options.

The group will be announced by the end of the week.

Schulz wrote that he and athletic director Pat Chun immediately began reaching out to conference commissioners, presidents and chancellors, athletic directors and other leaders in college athletics to explore options.

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

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