As Oregon State and Washington State remain in a state of limbo together following the mass exodus from the Pac-12 over the past two years, Yahoo Sports reported this week that a relegation/promotion model -- similar to European soccer -- is among discussions for a potential partnership between the "Pac-2" and Mountain West. The details of a promotion/relegation model drafted by Boise State athletic director Michael Walsh were obtained by Front Office Sports.
For myriad reasons, the proposal seems a bit far fetched and borderline unlikely to happen. Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes, however, can foresee a model featuring promotion/relegation thriving in an ever-changing college football landscape.
"As you think about the future of even media rights, I think a sort of relegation model, either in unequal distribution, a contraction of teams and/or peer relegation will take place. I think that's coming," Barnes said in a joint press conference Thursday. "In terms of the model itself, I think there's some merit to look at some form of hybrid model that does support that. We see it working in a similar fashion in Europe, and certainly it's worthy of our study."
Oregon State and Washington State were both left by the wayside in the latest round of conference realignment. They are the only two holdovers in a Pac-12 that is set to lose 10 members in 2024. As the two schools face so much uncertainty, and with a ranked matchup between the two set for Saturday, the presidents and athletic directors from each university spoke with the media on Thursday in a joint press conference.
Should a promotion/relegation model be implemented, the Beavers and Cougars would likely thrive based purely on recent performance. Washington State has made a bowl game in seven out of the last eight years and, discounting the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, they have just one losing season since 2015. Oregon State has made two straight bowl games under coach Jonathan Smith. Last season, the Beavers reached 10 wins for the first time since 2006 and defeated an SEC team, Florida, in the Las Vegas Bowl to finish the year ranked No. 17 in the AP Top 25.
The two schools are on an upward trajectory. Oregon State came in at No. 14 in the most recent AP Top 25, while Washington State ranked 21. This will be the first time in 97 matchups that the two have met as ranked opponents.
While Barnes seemed convinced relegation will come at some point, Washington State president Kirk Schulz doesn't see it happening unless an outside source with significant resources acts as a catalyst.
"I don't know how you practically move to these particular models that you could even get a lot of people to sit around and agree to," Schulz said. "There's going to have to be some other disruptors that are going to force it, and I'm just not sure we're going to see a lot of movement in this space in the next four to five years just because people are locked down into particular media contracts."
The only thing working against Oregon State and Washington State is market size. The Big Ten elected to go with Oregon and Washington, rather than Oregon State and Washington State, to swell its ranks. The Big 12 targeted Pac-12 schools that are at least slightly closer to its geographic footprint, while the SEC has never shown any interest in West Coast expansion.