Stanford, Cal, and SMU Invited to Join ACC in Major College Sports Conference Realignment
In a significant turn of events, Stanford, Cal, and SMU have received invitations to join the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), bringing an end to the past three years of college sports’ conference realignment. This move comes as 17 schools have either moved up to a Power 5 conference or switched between Power 5 leagues during this period.
Unfortunately, the news is not as positive for Oregon State and Washington State, who have been excluded from the Power 5 club. Despite having successful football teams and newly renovated stadiums, these two schools currently do not have a conference to call home.
The American Athletic Conference (AAC) has made it clear that it will not consider adding these two Pacific Northwest schools. With limited options, the most likely landing spot for Oregon State and Washington State is the Mountain West conference. However, this Group of 5 conference offers significantly lower revenue distribution compared to the Power 5 conferences.
Nevertheless, Oregon State and Washington State are exploring all possible options and hoping to retain their position in the Pac-12. They could potentially benefit from revenue coming their way from the conference’s NCAA basketball tournament units and College Football Playoff revenue. But any decision to amend the current contract with the Pac-12 would require a unanimous vote from the 10 FBS conferences and Notre Dame, which may prove to be challenging.
The Pac-12 brand and logo hold great value and prestige, and the league is considered one of the autonomy conferences with special voting privileges in the NCAA. However, the conference also faces legal liabilities from ongoing lawsuits and complaints, adding to the uncertainty of the situation.
In an effort to secure their future, Oregon State and Washington State are hoping to attract desirable programs from the Mountain West and AAC to form a new conference without the lower-tier teams, potentially making it more appealing to TV partners. However, financial considerations and potential exit fees associated with leaving their current conferences need to be taken into account.
An alternative option that Oregon State and Washington State may explore is operating as a two-team conference in the Pac-12 for a two-year grace period. This would allow them more time to make a decision and explore other possibilities.
As the future of realignment and conference affiliations remains uncertain, it is important for Oregon State and Washington State to make decisions quickly to ensure they have opponents lined up for the next football season. At the moment, joining the Mountain West conference seems to be the most practical choice. However, with options potentially changing by 2026, including the potential for further expansion in other conferences, the situation is constantly evolving.