Mountain West seemed primed to pull off a major victory with Washington State and Oregon State in creating a scheduling alliance with their basketball teams in lieu of being able to play actual conference games, given that they weren’t in a conference starting next season. After all, that’s exactly what they did back in mid-November when they announced the football partnership between the conference and the two schools.
We wrote about it at the time and speculated that the reason for a change from a two-year to one-year wasn’t a big deal, wondering if it meant a formal merger was imminent so there was no need to schedule two years at a time when they would be official members well before then. In fact, the original post on Yahoo reported that this was the first step in a long-term commitment by Washington State and Oregon State to the conference.
That proved to be incorrect.
Instead, in a shocking move, the Beavers and Cougars announced a two-year commitment as affiliate members of the West Coast Conference in men’s and women’s basketball.
Unfortunately, this news broke towards the end of December, but given that it was right during the early signing period and everything else going on that month, thoughts on the matter haven’t come out on our site until today.
Why would the PAC2 do this? There could be a few reasons, but I think the main one is hope.
Perhaps Oregon State and Washington State think they will fare better in the WCC than the Mountain West. If they can’t have a seat at the adult table, they may as well be the biggest kids at one of the kid's tables, to play the analogy out a bit. While there is no guarantee they can beat teams like Gonzaga and St. Mary’s on a regular basis, but it is a bit easier to have to beat only two teams compared to attempting to survive the current gauntlet that is the Mountain West MBB conference.
Or maybe, the two schools were forced into this decision by the Mountain West overplaying their hand. Many people, myself included, assumed the MW was the only remaining option for Oregon State and Washington State. If they conference saw it that way too, perhaps they played hardball, thinking the schools would be forced to give into their demands. But instead, the schools said thanks, but no thanks. This seems unlikely, as news probably would have leaked by now about that.
Instead, it seems like it was the other way around, at least to some degree. For some reason, the Beavers and Cougars believe they don’t need to put their other sports in the Mountain West. Having all of their sports in one conference makes the most sense, that’s what pretty much every team does. The exceptions would be when a school has their football program separate from the rest of their sports. And it appears Oregon State and Washington State hoping that will be the case eventually.
The PAC2 appears to have some kind of hope that their future will be better over the next few years than locking in a deal with the Moutnain West. Maybe they believe they could pull off being football independents, and when they said that to the Mountain West, then the conference balked at getting the other sports without football, the two schools went with the next best option for the rest of the teams. This is a lot of speculation, of course, but it may be an explanation for how things transpired.
Another factor in all of this is Florida State. Yes, Florida State.
People may recall that the Seminoles finished the 2023 regular season undefeated and usually, that means a team is poised to finish in the top four of the rankings and play in the College Football Playoff. Except they didn’t. The committee kept them out, and while this article won’t explore whether that decision is right or wrong, but needless to say, Florida State didn’t agree with their ranking.
Since then, reports have surfaced that the Seminoles have explored options about leaving the ACC, trying to get into either the Big Ten or the SEC, and have begun raising funds to eventually pay the heavy ACC exit fee.
This is relevant because it means conference realigmment is not over, even if it is currently taking a break. If it is only a matter of time before Florida State departs for another conference, everyone knows it won’t be the only move. And if there are more moves to be made, then it gives hope to Oregon State and Washington State that they can join their old conferencemates in an ACC conference that will be looking for members. Or the Big12 or something else that they would deem better than the Mountain West Conference.
This doesn’t mean the Mountain West doesn’t deserve any blame, but it does open up the possibility the circumstances changed from November to December, causing an arrangement for basketball fell through.
Holding out hope that there is still room for them in another round of realignment is one side of the argument. Choosing stability in a pretty good geographical conference that will be improved by them joining is the other side. Of course, Mountain West fans know what option makes the most sense logically and what option they want the PAC2 to choose in the long run. However, in the world of college football, betting on chaos isn’t a bad idea and the Beavers and Cougars appear to be in a gambling mood.