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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Nothing surprises me anymore’: Bill Moos, former Washington State athletic director, reflects on conference realignment

Fomer WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos poses for a photo for WSU photographer Robert Hubner before the start of the first half of a college football against Oregon on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

Bill Moos is retired now and lives on his ranch south of Spokane, so the gutting of a conference he knows intimately doesn’t impact his day to day like it would have five or 10 years ago.

But it still saddens him to see what has happened to the Pac-12.

“We’ve got four schools left, and I don’t know what value they have,” said Moos, the former Oregon and Washington State athletic director. “I’d like to think they’ve got some, but nothing surprises me anymore.

“We could wake up tomorrow and something else could be the lead story of somebody going somewhere else. To tell you the truth, it makes me happy my career is over.”

Moos spoke with The Spokesman-Review on Monday about the uncertain state of the West Coast’s historically premier conference. A native of Eastern Washington, he played offensive line for the Washington State football team from 1969 to 1972, joined the Cougars athletic administration for an eight-year stint from 1982 to 1990, and then came back to Pullman in 2010 after time as the athletic director at Montana and Oregon.

As of Tuesday, the four schools left in the Pac-12 are Washington State, Oregon State, California and Stanford – the conference’s only committed members for the 2024 season.

Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah will join the Big 12. USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington will be members of the Big Ten in 2024.

“There’s been a growing lack of trust and poor communication, and schools just looking out for themselves with no regard for their fellow conference members,” Moos said. “It all hit real fast on this one.”

During his time as Washington State athletics director from 2010 to 2017, Moos also led the way on the Pac-12’s media deal. He said that deal enabled WSU to build $165 million of football facilities and helped the team be competitive during a strong decade. During the 10 full seasons from 2012 to 2022, WSU went to eight bowl games – as many as the team played in from 1981 to 2011.

But the money that has made its way into college athletics through media contracts and name, image and likeness (NIL), plus the opening of the transfer portal, helped to create the dilemma that college athletics faces, Moos said.

“These kids are going to go where the money is, and so the parity that I and so many others worked hard to achieve over a long period of time is out the door,” Moos said. “You can get a better NIL deal in Los Angeles than you can in Pullman and Corvallis. That’s just simple to see, and so that moved the industry back to the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’ “

Despite the exodus from the Pac-12, the conference was in a much stronger position only 12 years ago, Moos said, with opportunities to grow. The conference had just expanded with Utah and Colorado, Texas wanted to join, and with an equal distribution of media revenue, the conference had “unprecedented parity,” Moos said.

Moos left Washington State in 2017 to become the athletic director at Nebraska, a post he held until his retirement in June 2021. Considering his time spent in the Big Ten, Moos said the programs headed into that conference had better be ready.

“USC, UCLA, Washington and Oregon are all fabulous programs, but you better strap it on, because I’ve been around the Big Ten, and there are no easy days,” he said. “When you take your show into Ann Arbor (Michigan) or Columbus (Ohio State) or Happy Valley (Penn State) or into Lincoln, Nebraska, you’re going to get all you can handle.”