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Oregon and Washington Are Off to the Big Ten, Dealing Death Blow to the Pac-12

After a wild week of rumors and contradicting reports, the Pacific Northwest schools are set to join the Big Ten.

Capping a week of wild swings and backroom maneuvering, Oregon and Washington dealt a potential death blow to the Pac-12 Conference by finalizing plans to join the Big Ten, sources confirmed to Sports Illustrated. Formal applications and a formal approval had not yet occurred as of early Friday afternoon, but those steps were expected to taken quickly.

The moves of Oregon and Washington are expected to be complete in time for the 2024–25 academic year.

The landscape-altering realignment came after an 11th-hour attempt to salvage the core of the Pac-12 fell apart Friday morning. Pac-12 sources expressed quiet optimism that a new media rights deal and grant of rights presented by commissioner George Kliavkoff would be accepted in a league meeting, but that meeting failed to produce an agreement. Hours later, Oregon and Washington were being fast-tracked into the Big Ten, a development first reported by Yahoo Sports.

Oregon and Washington are set to join the Big Ten.

The Huskies and Ducks are set to join the Midwest based league in 2024.

With the departures of Oregon, Washington and Colorado (ticketed to the Big 12), the Pac-12 membership for 2024 stands at seven pending word on the remaining “Four Corners” schools of Arizona, Arizona State and Utah. There was no word in the immediate aftermath of the Oregon-Washington news on the fate of the rest of the Pac-12. The league could soon be down to as few as four schools: Stanford, California, Oregon State and Washington State.

After USC and UCLA announced their departure last year, and Colorado did the same this July, the next Pac-12 dominoes were poised to fall this week: Arizona was in deep discussions with the Big 12, with Arizona State and Utah potentially being pulled along with the Wildcats; meanwhile, Big Ten presidents approved an exploration of adding Oregon and Washington.

The move furthers the Big Ten’s westward expansion and national reach but comes with a new layer of scheduling difficulty—especially if Oregon and Washington are fast-tracked to be playing football in the conference 13 months from now. Whether the conference will reassess its decision to disband its divisional alignment remains to be seen.

For months, Big Ten officials have said they were completely focused on integrating USC and UCLA into the league and had no plans for further expansion. That changed quickly with the Pac-12 struggling to lock in a media deal and Colorado bolting for the Big 12. The conference had done considerable background work on Oregon and Washington last summer—especially from a financial perspective—as potential additions then, so the process of reassessing them was rapid.

This also was a quick score for new Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti, a former TV executive who came aboard with the conference in April.

Some Big Ten presidents expressed enthusiasm for adding academic heavyweights Stanford and Cal from the Pac-12 as well, and growing to 20 schools. However, the league’s media partners were less enthusiastic about bringing in the two Bay Area institutions due to lackluster fan followings and TV ratings.

The questions now center on whether this second annual expansion of the Big Ten will be met with a commensurate response from the Southeastern Conference. The two financial titans of college sports were at 16 members, a number the SEC has repeatedly says it likes, but the balance of power has been delicate for several years across the FBS landscape.

Some Atlantic Coast Conference schools, most notably Florida State, have recently chafed at their long-term grant of rights deal that will leave them making far less revenue than the Big Ten and SEC. Those schools are under contract until 2036, although FSU leaders publicly declared their dissatisfaction with the ACC and their desire to leave this week. However, it remains to be seen whether FSU would be an expansion target for the SEC or anyone else if freed from its ACC agreements.

Perhaps in an effort to improve its own financial position, the ACC also tried to play a part in propping up the Pac-12 this week, sources say. Details were vague, but the conferences had been in discussions about an arrangement of some sort, whether it was scheduling or an actual merger or acquisition of members. That was part of the Pac-12’s presentation to league members Friday, sources say, but it failed to alter the inclinations of Oregon and Washington toward the Big Ten.