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Washington State to the Big 12? Unlikely, according to new reports

BYU defensive lineman Tyler Batty, right, tackles Washington State running back Max Borghi during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Young Kwak) ORG XMIT: OTK  (Young Kwak)

PULLMAN – At every turn, when it sounds like Washington State might survive the Pac-12 exit and land in a major conference after all, the Cougars’ hope seems to fade.

In response to a report that the Big 12 might be interested in WSU and Oregon State, two of the four remaining schools in the Pac-12, three national reporters refuted that idea: Action Network’s Brett McMurphy, CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd and Jon Wilner, a nationally syndicated columnist.

Noise began to pick up thanks to a post on X, the website formerly known as Twitter, by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Silver.

“As Cal and Stanford attempt to finalize a deal with the ACC, the Big 12 has surfaced as another potential landing spot,” Silver wrote. “In that scenario the remaining Pac 12 schools (including Oregon State and Washington State) could also join the Big 12.”

The post sparked conversation around the Cougars’ orbit: How would that work out? What kind of financial windfall would WSU enjoy with Big 12 membership? After all, that has been Washington State’s dream scenario since the conference began to fall apart, and university president Kirk Schulz even mentioned that WSU would explore joining the Big 12.

That still remains a possibility, but based on new reports, it looks unlikely.

“Despite various reports to the contrary, Big 12 has not had conversations w/any of the Pac-4 schools & has no intention in engaging w/those schools, multiple Big 12 sources told @ActionNetworkHQ,” McMurphy wrote.

Dodd echoed that sentiment, adding, “Multiple sources shot this down to me yesterday.”

If the Cougars can’t join the Big 12, their options are the ones that Schulz and others in the media have already outlined: Join the Mountain West, join the American Athletic Conference or rebuild the Pac-12 in some fashion.

Which makes the most sense? That’s a loaded question. Financially, WSU might benefit most from rebuilding the Pac-12, since the conference bylaws dictate that remaining schools would share the distribution funds. If the Cougars bolted to another conference and the Pac-12 dissolved completely – as is feasible – they would become like every other school that has left: Ineligible for conference distribution funds.

That’s according to a reading of the conference bylaws, available here, that read like this in part:

“In the event of the dissolution or final liquidation of the Conference, all of the remaining assets and property of the Conference shall, after paying or making provision for the payment of all of the liabilities and obligations of the Conference and for necessary expenses thereof, be distributed to the members of the Conference so long as they are then qualified as a tax-exempt organization under Code Section 501©(3), or to such organization or organizations organized and operated exclusively for charitable or educational purposes as shall at the time qualify as an exempt organization or organizations under Code Section 501©(3) as the CEO Group shall determine. In no event shall any of the assets or property be distributed to any director or officer, or any private individual.”

Another sampling, from section 3, “Withdrawal.”

No member shall deliver a notice of withdrawal to the Conference in the period beginning on July 24, 2011, and ending on August 1, 2024; provided, that if any member does deliver a notice of withdrawal prior to August 1, 2024, in violation of this chapter, the Conference shall be entitled to an injunction and other equitable relief to prevent such breach, and if a court of competent jurisdiction shall deny the Conference such injunctive relief, the Conference shall be entitled to retain all the media and sponsorship rights in the multi-player video distribution (MPVD) and telecommunications/wireless categories of the member purporting to withdraw through August 1, 2024, even if the member is then a member of another conference or an independent school for some or all intercollegiate sports competitions. Additionally, if a member delivers notice of withdrawal in violation of this chapter, the member’s representative to the CEO Group shall automatically cease to be a member of the CEO Group and shall cease to have the right to vote on any matter before the CEO Group. (6/10, 10/10, 7/11).

The realignment saga will stretch past Labor Day (which includes WSU’s season-opener, Sept. 2 at Colorado State), according to CBS Sports, which added that AAC commissioner Mike Aresco is expected to use Zoom to engage WSU and Oregon State this coming week. Schulz confirmed as much in a note posted last week.

For WSU, the waiting game continues.