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Washington State and Oregon State reach scheduling agreement with Mountain West

Mascots Butch of Washington State and Benny Beaver of Oregon State Beavers take to the field together before the Sept. 23 football game at Gesa Field in Pullman.   (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Washington State still doesn’t have a full picture of what its 2024 season will look like. The Cougars are almost there now, though.

Pac-12 holdovers WSU and Oregon State have reached a scheduling agreement with the Mountain West Conference for next season, Washington State announced Friday, striking a deal that will provide each school six games against Mountain West teams, three home and three away.

The Cougars’ 2024 season has those six games lined up, plus the five already announced: home against Portland State on Aug. 31; at San Diego State on Sept. 7; against Washington at Lumen Field on Sept. 14; home against San Jose State on Sept. 21; and a game against Oregon State at a date to be determined.

That leaves one open slot. WSU will announce its full 2024 schedule “in the near future,” according to Friday’s release.

This agreement, according to a report from Yahoo Sports and confirmed Friday by WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun, is expected to include a fee of roughly $14 million paid to Mountain West schools, and for now it is football only. WSU and OSU will not be eligible for the Mountain West championship.

Neither school is locked into a contractual agreement to make this a long-term arrangement, per Yahoo Sports, but there is “intent and understanding” of full-time membership – or a merger – for WSU and OSU, according to Yahoo.

For his part, Chun was adamant that this is a short-term, nonconference agreement. Pressed on whether it could turn into a longer-term fixture, Chun reiterated that these are nonconference matchups for WSU, which wants to remain as flexible as possible moving forward – which is why the program is not ready to commit to a long-term arrangement.

As for other sports, like basketball and volleyball, Chun said he and his team are working to finalize those schedules.

“They’re all urgent,” Chun said, “and we’re working on those in parallel tracks right now with trying to get this football piece done.”

Oregon sports writer John Canzano reported last week that Oregon would like to get out of its Sept. 7 home game against Texas Tech, in order to keep its rivalry with Oregon State alive. To make that happen, Canzano wrote, Texas Tech could visit WSU on Sept. 7 – although the Cougars have the road game with SDSU set up for that date.

On Friday, Chun declined to comment on that possibility.

“We’re working to get the best possible opponent here in Pullman for that final date,” Chun said, “and whenever that comes to a conclusion, we’ll make an announcement.”

“Power Five home game,” WSU coach Jake Dickert said Friday. “That’s what we’re looking for. That’s what we want for our team and our fans. And I think that’s gonna shape exactly where we want to be. So that’s hopefully the target and we’re working tirelessly to get to that point.”

In wake of the release, Air Force Football welcomed WSU and OSU to the Mountain West schedule, suggesting the Cougars and the Beavers will play the Falcons in 2024.

Could WSU and OSU play each other twice in a home-and-home series? Chun was open to that possibility, though only as a last resort.

“That is something that is always an option,” said Chun, who added that next year, WSU will continue to wear the Pac-12 logo on its jerseys and paint it on its home field.

The Cougars and Beavers are expected to negotiate broadcasting agreements separate from those of Mountain West teams, which are partnered with Fox and CBS Sports Network.

“We’ll work with Oregon State through the conference to identify television opportunities and partners,” Chun said. “As normal with traditional TV agreements, we’ll control the rights to all of our home games. So we’ll begin that process in short order as soon as we finalize the football schedules.”

With the transfer portal opening Monday, this comes at a key time for Washington State, which has lost five players to the portal – including quarterback Cam Ward and top receiver Josh Kelly, who entered on Thursday. Ward is expected to field name, image and likeness (NIL) offers around $1 million each, according to multiple reports, and top cornerback Chau Smith-Wade, who according to a source with direct knowledge turned down a big NIL payday from Michigan last offseason, should get similar options.