top of page

Future Conference Plans of the Pac-12's Beavers, Cougars

The Last Remaining Members of the Pac-12 Conference: Washington State Cougars - Oregon State Beavers
© James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It takes more than two to tango when it comes to the structure of college football conferences.

The future of the sharply contracted Pac-12 Conference is up in the air. Its current binary form cannot persist, as a two-team conference is unworkable. Reaching a conference championship game in a two-team league would require no achievement on the gridiron. Indeed, a winless team could conceivably end up in the championship game of such a conference.

What does the future hold for the Pac-12 and its two remaining members—the Oregon State Beavers and the Washington State Cougars?

Rebuilding the Pac-12

The presidents and athletic directors of the two universities have expressed their preference to rebuild the Pac-12. As a result of success in litigation, Wazzu and OSU are the recipients of valuable media rights in the wake of the mass exodus from the conference. Armed with substantial resources, the Cougars and Beavers might be able to preserve and rebuild the historic Pac-12 by enticing teams to join.

Partnership With Mountain West Conference

Oregon State and Washington State have entered into an interim scheduling partnership with the MWC. For the 2024 season, OSU and WSU agreed to pay the MWC $14 million, and in exchange, the Beavers and Cougars will play five games each against MWC teams. Neither team will be eligible for the MWC championship, and the scheduling partnership might be extended to 2025.

The MWC belongs to the Group of 5 and consists of 11 member universities:

  1. Air Force Falcons

  2. Boise State Broncos

  3. Colorado State Rams

  4. Fresno State Bulldogs

  5. New Mexico Lobos

  6. Nevada Wolf Pack

  7. San Diego State Aztecs

  8. San Jose State Spartans

  9. UNLV Rebels

  10. Utah State Aggies

  11. Wyoming Cowboys

CBS Sports has reported on overtures the MWC has made to persuade Oregon State and Washington State to join the conference in the future. Such a move would make sense from a geographic perspective. However, as noted, the preference of the Beavers and Cougars it to rebuild the Pac-12.

Mountain West Conference Logo
© Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Schedules

With the MWC scheduling partnership, here are the schedules of the Cougars and Beavers for the 2024 season.

Cougars 2024 Schedule
  • Aug. 31: Portland State

  • Sept. 7: Texas Tech

  • Sept. 14: at Washington

  • Sept. 20: San Jose State

  • Sept. 28: at Boise State

  • Oct. 12: at Fresno State

  • Oct. 19: Hawai'i

  • Oct. 26: at San Diego State

  • Nov. 9: Utah State

  • Nov. 16: at New Mexico State

  • Nov. 23: at Oregon State

Washington State Cougars
© Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Beavers 2024 Schedule
  • Aug. 31: Idaho State

  • Sept. 7: at San Diego State

  • Sept. 14: Oregon

  • Sept. 21: Purdue

  • Oct. 5: Colorado State

  • Oct. 12: at Nevada

  • Oct. 19: UNLV

  • Oct 26: at Cal

  • Nov. 9: San Jose State

  • Nov. 16: at Air Force

  • Nov. 29: at Boise State

Oregon State Beavers Football
© Craig Strobeck-USA TODAY Sports

Possible Big 12 Membership

Could the Beavers and Cougars follow Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah from the Pac-12 to the Big 12 Conference? Such a move is worthy of consideration. OSU and Wazzu both wish to retain Power Five status. If they are unable to achieve their goal of rebuilding the Pac-12, transitioning to the Big 12 would enable them to retain Power Five status. From the perspective of the Big 12, adding Washington State and Oregon State would enable the conference to expand its market into the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, with their traditional brands and cache, the Beavers and Cougars would help the Big 12 keep up with the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten Conference in terms of influence and competitive advantage in the college football landscape.

Preservation of Rivalry Games

The Beavers and Cougars participate in two of college football's most historic and cherished rivalry series—the Apple Cup and the rivalry game formerly known as the "Civil War." In the Apple Cup, the Cougars have played the Washington Huskies annually since 1900. This year's matchup will be the 116th between the teams. The Oregon vs. Oregon State rivalry dates back to 1894.

What is to become of these great, historical rivalry series in the aftermath of conference realignment? The universities have made interim arrangements to keep the rivalry series going. However, the long-term future is uncertain. The fact that the opposing rivals are now in different conferences makes preservation of the series complicated. The interim maneuvers resulted in the disappointing scheduling of the rivalry games early in the 2024 season. Traditional late-season scheduling of these rivalry games adds drama and intrigue.

Legendary Beavers, Cougars

Unforgettable stars of the gridiron have suited up for Oregon State and Washington State. Here are some of the most memorable:


Christened with an all-time great football name, Tommy Prothro coached the Beavers from 1955 through 1964. He was a quarterback for Duke in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He led the Beavers to a stellar 63-37-2 career during his tenure. Prothro went on to coach for UCLA, the Los Angeles Rams and the San Diego Chargers. He is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Tommy Prothro
© Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports

Beavers quarterback Terry Baker won the Heisman Trophy in 1962, becoming the first player from the West Coast to receive the honor. The Los Angeles Rams selected him with the first overall pick in the 1963 NFL Draft. He is enshrined in the Oregon Hall of Fame.

Talented and charismatic Chad Johnson, aka "Ochocinco," teamed up with TJ Houshmandzadeh at Oregon State to form one of the most dynamic wide receiver duos in college football history. They led the Beavers to an 11-1 record, a 41-9 thrashing of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and a No. 4 national ranking. Johnson went on to have a standout NFL career in which he was a three-time first team All-Pro.

Steven Jackson was a dominant running back for the Beavers from 2001-2003, twice earning American honors. He rushed for 3,625 yards and 39 touchdowns in his three-year career in Corvallis, Ore. He was also a skilled receiver, hauling in 66 receptions with a 10.3-yard average per reception. The St. Louis Rams selected him in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. In his prolific professional career, he was a two-time All-Pro.


Two Cougars are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame—Mel Hein and Albert Glen "Turk" Edwards. Hein was a two-way player. He is the only person to ever win NFL MVP as a center. He also played linebacker. Edwards was an offensive tackle. They were both inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the 1960s.

Canadian-born Mark Rypien was the Cougars' quarterback from 1981 through 1985. He was named first team All-Pac-10 Conference in 1984. Washington drafted him in the 1986 NFL Draft and he went on to become an All-Pro and two-time Super Bowl champion.

In 1992, Drew Bledsoe quarterbacked a nationally-ranked Cougars squad to a 9-3 record, including a victory over Utah in the Copper Bowl. Bledsoe was named the Pac-10's Offensive Player of the Year and second team All-American. As Tom Brady's predecessor with the New England Patriots, he was a four-time NFL Pro Bowler.

Washington State Cougars - Pac-10 Conference - Drew Bledsoe
© Long Photography-USA TODAY Sports

With all the upheaval in college football in recent years, the futures of these two historically prominent stalwarts of the Pacific Northwest are up in the air.

1 Comment

Jun 29


Michigan Football
Blue Screen
bottom of page