Amid mounting defections from the Pac-12 in the latest wave of conference realignment, officials from Washington State, Stanford, Cal and Oregon State expressed their disappointment and plans for action in the face of an uncertain future. Oregon and Washington -- charter members of what was then the Pacific Coast Conference in 1915 -- both announced on Friday they will , and they were followed by three of the conference's "Four Corners" schools -- Arizona, Arizona State and Utah -- who will .
With Friday's exodus, more than half of the conference has defected within the last 13 months, six of which have come within the past 10 days. Though Friday's ransacking acted as the potential knockout blow, the Pac-12 has been in a spiral since USC and UCLA announced they were joining the Big Ten in 2024. Colorado followed in July by announcing a return to the Big 12 in 2024.
The future for the four remaining schools is unclear amid a bleak outlook for the Pac-12. Washington State, along with Oregon State, has not been seen as an expansion candidate for an existing Power Five conference in the latest wave of realignment. Stanford, meanwhile, along with Bay Area rival Cal, has loosely been linked to the Big Ten in the event it wanted to pursue further expansion to 20 total members, but no such steps have been taken yet.
The Pac-12 said inof its own Friday evening that it is working to "the best future possible" for the four remaining schools, with Yahoo Sports reporting leadership from those institutions met multiple times Friday to determine next steps. But that wasn't until after leadership from each of the four took turns at sharing their views on the situation, some expressing more candid opinions than others.
Washington State president Kirk Schulz and athletic director Pat Chun released a joint statement Friday afternoon -- before the Oregon and Washington departures were finalized -- expressing disappointment but adding they were prepared for "numerous scenarios" moving forward.
"While we had hoped that our membership would remain together, this outcome was always a possibility, and we have been working diligently to determine what is next for Washington State Athletics," they said. "We've prepared for numerous scenarios, including our current situation. With exceptional student-athletes, a strong Cougar tradition and incredible support from our fans, donors and alumni, we will chart the best path forward together."
Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne and athletic director Bernard Muir released a joint statement of their own after the Oregon and Washington defections became official, taking a similar tone to Washington State's leadership. The Cardinal's affiliation with the league extends back to 1918.
"We are aware of the University of Oregon and the University of Washington's intended departure from the Pac-12 Conference," they said. "Our primary focus at this time is analyzing the available options and making the best decisions for Stanford and our student-athletes. We remain optimistic about Stanford's athletics future and remain committed to pursuing excellence in college athletics."
Cal, like Oregon and Washington, was also one of the four charter members of the conference in 1915, the fourth being Oregon State. Leadership from Berkeley made it clear Friday that the Golden Bears don't intend to stand idly by as they evaluate the best path forward for the athletic department.
"We are aware that two more of our Pac-12 peer institutions [Oregon and Washington] have decided to leave the conference one year from now, and there are reports that additional universities may be considering similar steps," Cal chancellor Carol Christ and athletic director Jim Knowlton said in a joint statement. "We are not watching and waiting from the sidelines. Together [we] are evaluating a variety of options that will ensure our student-athletes can continue to thrive, and that our intercollegiate athletics can continue to excel in a manner consistent with our international values. We are grateful for continued support of the campus community and the extended Cal Family, and will remain committed to sharing as much information as we can in the days ahead."
Among the leaders at the four remaining Pac-12 schools, Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes was perhaps the most vocally frustrated by Friday's realignment moves. He told The Oregonian he is "furious" with the decisions by the Beavers' Pac-12 peers in lamenting the situation for the conference.
"The great history and tradition of this conference has been severely damaged. The best interest of the student athlete hasn't been served," Barnes said. "Traveling to the Eastern seaboard multiple times a year is not in the best interest of student-athletes [of departing Pac-12 schools]. I'm furious because it puts this university in harm's way and our student athletes in harm's way. There's some damage done that we're going to have to mitigate."