Back on November 16th, Gloria Nevarez and the Mountain West Conference pulled off a massive victory off the field. Actually, the first win of the week was in the courts, when Oregon State and Washington State were legally given the authority to make decisions for the PAC without the departing teams getting a say. This allowed the Beavers and Cougars the ability to form a scheduling partnership with the Mountain West for at least the 2023 and 2024 seasons. More importantly, those two teams gain access to the money ($400 million) tied to the PAC, which is lucrative considering all of the NCAA tourney unit money due to be paid out to them over the years. We break down the details of the original announcement, along with yesterday’s update, and our thoughts on it below.
The schedule is the most immediate change, as it alters the 2024 football schedule. For at least the next football season, with the potential to extend it into 2025 or longer, the Mountain West will move from 8 conference games to a “7+1” format, meaning all Mountain West teams will play seven conference games plus a game against either Oregon State or Washington State, either home or away.
The two remaining members of the PAC will be operating as a two-team conference at least for the next two years. The NCAA allows conferences a grace period if they don’t have the minimum amount of teams, which is eight.
Will these games be conference games or not? The answer is mostly no, at least for things that matter.
Games against Oregon State and Washington State will not count towards the conference record, and the two teams will not be able to play in the MW championship game. However, it’s basically a test run for what hopes to one day be part of the conference schedule, and depending on the team, it will take place in the heart of the conference schedule.
A few Mountain West teams already had the Beavers or Cougars on the schedule, and thankfully, the powers that be have already considered that. If a Mountain West team has OSU or WSU on their schedule, they will automatically play the other team as the “+1” game. So, some teams will play both, but every team will play at least one of the two teams.
This becomes a significant benefit for the Mountain West, as they instantly get a strength of schedule boost while simultaneously helping the two PAC teams fill out their schedule. MW Commissioner Gloria Nevarez and her staff saw that the PAC2 had giant holes in their schedule, recognized they had all the power, and made the two schools an offer they had no choice but to accept.
It’s also worth noting this is currently for football only, but the two sides are currently exploring a similar deal for men’s and women’s basketball, although they are not far enough along to report.
Not only does the new partnership help on the field, but it will also benefit the Mountain West off the field.
The wording in the article states, “The agreement is expected to include a lucrative financial package for Mountain West members...” Yesterday, more details came out, and the two schools will pay the Mountain West $14 million to play with them next season (it would be assumed that is the going rate for any arrangement past 2024 as well). $14 million is a nice chunk of change for Mountain West schools. Depending on how much Hawaii gets, it’s $1.16 to $1.27 million per school, or roughly the equivalent of getting paid to get destroyed by an SEC team in September.
In addition to this, these home games are likely to provide extra media rights revenue by the conference media partners, Fox Sports, and CBS Sports. The bottom line is, more money for the conference is always a good thing. While it is currently unknown how the money will be paid out to each school, it may make the most sense to give all teams a flat equal share and then an extra amount to those playing the home games. Regardless, credit to Nevarez for pulling it off.
But it gets better. The Mountain West Conference stands to benefit past this one or two-year scheduling partnership, no matter what the outcome is.
The article reports that the agreement should be seen as the first step in Oregon State and Washington State committing to the Mountain West long-term, which probably means joining the league as full-time members. Or maybe they seek to acquire the 12 Mountain West teams under the PAC banner, but either way, a full-time merger appears to be inevitable.
And if the two PAC teams attempt to take only a few teams, the Mountain West Conference is covered in that outcome as well. There will be a financial penalty if the Beavers and Cougars try to poach some teams while leaving the others out in the cold.
It is extremely impressive that Commissioner Nevarez and the rest of the Mountain West found ways to benefit the conference in both the short and the long term while covering their bases for the two most likely outcomes should any funny business occur.
Again, it’s very likely all parties are agreeing to this arrangement in good faith. It’s expected Oregon State and Washington State intend to join the Mountain West but want to save face by doing a slow transition to get their affairs in order. It’s also likely that legal teams and powers that be are trying to figure out how to get all fourteen teams under the PAC banner but are waiting for the court appeals to blow over as well as the departing teams to depart in order to avoid some additional lawsuits. In fact, this process may already heading in a good direction. Consider that last week, it was being reported that it would be a two-year scheduling arrangement, and now it is only one year for sure with the potential for me. That makes it clear that Oregon State and Washington State have something else in mind for 2025 and beyond, and the only option that currently makes sense would be a full merger with the Mountain West.
No matter how it ends up, it is cause for celebration for the Mountain West. Back in August, Nevarez said it would be a missed opportunity not to add the remaining PAC teams to her conference. She deserves as much credit as possible for pulling it off, even if the process isn’t straightforward.