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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Mountain West Is Exploring How To Become the New Pac-12

  • The most commonly discussed idea at the Mountain West is a reverse merger with Oregon State and Washington State, a source told FOS.
  • One of the first steps: determining how to obtain the Pac-12’s intellectual property — a concept which is difficult, but not impossible.
Colorado State’s defense blows up Washington State running back Nakia Watson during the first quarter of the Rams’ first game of the season Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. The Rams were defeated 50-24.
Joel Blocker / For the Coloradoan

Officials at Oregon State and Washington State have expressed their desire to rebuild the existing Pac-12. But a version of the conference could still exist in the future even if that effort fails.

Within the Mountain West, the most commonly discussed idea is a reverse merger with Oregon State and Washington State, one source told Front Office Sports. Many in the Mountain West are in favor of renaming the conference the “Pac-12.”

Before Stanford and Cal announced their move to the ACC, Mountain West Commissioner Gloria Nevarez told FOS that she was “open to the conversation” of a reverse merger, but said the conference would have to engage in “due diligence.” 

The Mountain West’s legal team will likely consider multiple hurdles.

One of the likely first steps: determining how to obtain the Pac-12’s intellectual property — a concept which is difficult, but not impossible.

When Big East basketball schools broke away from the original “Big East”  in 2013, they were able to retain the rights to the name and create a new conference under that banner.

While the Big East found a new commissioner, the Mountain West could stick with Nevarez — who has previously worked at the Pac-12. Current commissioner George Kliavkoff reportedly isn’t involved in conversations about the next steps for Oregon State and Washington State. One Washington State source reportedly even said they wished Nevarez was their commissioner instead.

With any type of expansion, the Mountain West would have to reimagine its current media deal with Fox and CBS Sports Network, which pay out about $4 million per school per year. In addition to these considerations, however, the Mountain West could explore gaining control of the Pac-12 Networks.

Nevarez previously said a “pro rata” media deal, where networks make additional payments so no one’s shares are diluted with more members, is the starting point for negotiations. But it’s difficult to imagine the conference could negotiate a deal anywhere near the minimum $30 million other Power 4 schools make. Renaming itself the Pac-12 wouldn’t even move the needle, one industry source previously told FOS.

Oregon State and Washington State have potential legal implications as well: They’re currently in line to receive millions of NCAA distributions, as well as a Pac-12 emergency fund, as the conference’s only remaining members in 2024. They won’t want to lose any of that revenue, or have to share it with other schools if a merger succeeds.

A Mountain West-turned-Pac-12 may or may not maintain Power 5 status, however. Committees in the NCAA and College Football Playoff could strip its voting rights and revenue distribution privileges.

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