PULLMAN – Washington State University administrators have yet to comment publicly on the Pac-12 Conference’s recent shakeup, but there’s no doubt WSU’s leaders are busy behind the scenes, trying to make sense of a fluid situation.
“I’m so grateful we have (president) Kirk Schulz and (athletic director) Pat Chun guiding us through this,” former Cougars quarterback Jack Thompson said by phone this weekend. “You couldn’t get more forward-thinkers than those two.”
Schulz and Chun are both out of their offices until next week and unavailable for interviews, according to a WSU spokesman. Their vacations were interrupted last Thursday, and they have surely spent the past week attached to their phones, communicating with Pac-12 officials and other leaders about the next course of action.
USC and UCLA are bolting for the Big Ten Conference in 2024, a shocking development that has muddied the future of the Pac-12 and generated varying degrees of uncertainty among its members. The consequences of the Los Angeles schools’ defections may be felt the hardest in smaller markets, such as Pullman.
“There could be a chance, with some movement and realignment, that schools like Washington State and Oregon State could be left out (of the new power conferences),” former WSU athletic director Bill Moos said Wednesday. “And that’d be a crying shame.”
But Moos believes the Cougars are fortunate to have Schulz and Chun in positions of power.
“Washington State has exceptional leadership,” he said, “and very experienced leadership in intercollegiate athletics.
“Kirk was president at Kansas State when there were defections and additions in the Big 12, so he’s seasoned with that. Pat, of course, has been in the Big Ten (a graduate of Ohio State, Chun worked in the Buckeyes’ athletic department for nearly a decade), so he knows that territory and is very well-respected throughout the industry. WSU’s leadership is solid and they have gotten right after it, along with what’s remaining of the Pac-12.”
Schulz, considering his resume, should have a particularly influential voice in the Pac-12’s ongoing negotiations.
He is highly regarded in the athletics sphere and holds important positions in the Pac-12 – Schulz is the conference’s representative on the College Football Playoff Board and serves on the executive committee of the Pac-12’s CEO group, which is in the midst of discussions with the Atlantic Coast Conference about forming a “loose partnership” in hopes of increasing the value of both conferences’ media contracts, according to a CBS report published Tuesday night.
As president at Kansas State (2009-15), Schulz helped the Big 12 pull together after the conference lost Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M in the early 2010s.
He also led commissioner searches for both the Big 12 and Pac-12, and earlier this year was reportedly a candidate for the NCAA president job and Big 12 commissioner post.
“His name was floated in the top three to be the Big 12 commissioner because of his background at K-State, and he turned it down,” Thompson noted. “Then with (NCAA president) Mark Emmert stepping down, his name was floated up there for the NCAA job and he turned it down because of his belief in the things that are happening at our school.”
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