Washington State and Oregon State are faced with uncertain futures as the Pac-12 as it has been known for decades comes to an end.
At the end of the 2023-24 season, 10 of the 12 schools will depart for other conferences after a summer in which realignment took center stage.
The two football programs are both ranked in the top 25 after three weeks of the college football season, and they will square off on Saturday in Pullman, Washington.
On Thursday, the presidents and athletic directors held a joint press conference reiterating the two schools are unified moving forward.
Washington State athletic director Pat Chun encouraged fans to applaud when the Cougars band plays Oregon State’s fight song before kickoff.
“The four of us would wholeheartedly prefer pre-football press conferences involving student-athletes and coaches and not the four of us. But it’s also an opportunity. It was a unique week as we think about ways to elevate this game,” Chun said Thursday.
“Although we’re asking our Coug fans to make it the toughest, loudest environment, we’re also going to encourage them. Eighteen minutes before kickoff, our band is going to play the Oregon State fight song, and we’re going to ask as a show of respect to applaud that fight song, because the two universities are in a fight together. I know our two mascots are probably going to interact more than they’ve ever interacted really as symbolic as the two schools going down this unique road together.”
The two schools were the only members of the Pac-12 to not be offered a spot in another conference.
“Oregon State and Washington State belong competing at the highest level,” Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith said. “I think there’s a proven product not just in football, but in all sports that both universities’ programs have competed at the highest level, had serious success and that should continue.”
UCLA and USC announced their intentions to join the Big Ten in June 2022, kicking off the great escape from the conference.
In July, Colorado joined the Big 12 before Utah, Arizona and Arizona State announced their intentions to do the same. Shortly after, Oregon and Washington made the move to the Big Ten.
On Sept. 1, the ACC announced the additions of Stanford and Cal, leaving Washington State and Oregon State as the lone schools committed to the Pac-12 after 2023.
The Associated Press contributed to this report