Arrow-right Camera
Subscribe now

WSU AD Pat Chun on the state of college athletics: ‘Broken beyond repair’

Washington State Athletic Director Pat Chun, center, jokes with Oregon State head football coach Johnathan Smith before a Pac-12 Conference game on Sept. 23 at Gesa Field in Pullman.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – There is no panic in Pat Chun’s voice, but there is concern.

The Washington State athletic director knows the fate of his football program – er, entire athletic department – is as tenuous as it has been.

The exodus of 10 schools previously in the Pac-12 has left WSU and Oregon State to fend for survival. It has spawned a lawsuit in which Washington State and OSU are attempting to seize control of the Pac-12’s governing board and the hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue and assets that come with it.

Chun knows his university needs this court win. The Cougars need every scrap of security they can muster to keep themselves afloat.

Perhaps that’s why Chun’s first crack at humor during an interview on Tuesday came when he was asked when he’d like to see a schedule for next year’s football team.

“Hopefully, last week,” he said.

The real answer is who the hell knows? considering all the moving parts surrounding Washington State. But with the transfer portal opening up and signing day on the horizon for the football team, Chun was adamant that the school needs clarity as soon as possible.

As it stands, Washington State has five teams on its schedule for next season – San Jose State, San Diego State, Portland State, Washington and Oregon State. Chun said “Plan A” is for Oregon State and Washington State – who will essentially represent the Pac-2 next season – to partner with the Mountain West and have schools from that conference fill out the remainder of unscheduled games. But he didn’t elaborate on what Plan B or C would be, only joking that “Plan D” would be to play Oregon State six times.

This underscored a sense of desperation that Chun is likely feeling if not outright expressing. But mixed in with frustration and anger over what has transpired in his conference over the past few years was a sense of optimism for the future.

Some highlights from the Q&A:

On the five-year extension of the Apple Cup

Chun had said last summer that he’d heard from a contingent of Cougars fans so miffed with Washington’s departure from the Pac-12 that they wanted the Apple Cup to disappear permanently. But Chun also recognizes the importance of rivalry games and the century-long tradition between WSU and UW. Doesn’t mean it has to be a friendly rivalry, though.

“The majority of Cougs have a very defined opinion of what a Husky is, and I’m guessing that for many of them, what happened in the summertime reaffirmed how they feel about the Huskies,” Chun said.

Side note: Chun said on KJR earlier in the day that next year’s Big Ten champion would not come from the Pacific Northwest.

On the state of college sports

This wasn’t on the initial list of questions, but Chun did make a relatively jarring remark early on in the interview.

“College athletics is broken beyond repair,” he said.

The statement stemmed from a number of issues, but the main one was how NIL (name, image and likeness) has become a pay-for-play model detached from whatever good intentions it initially came from. Washington State coach Jake Dickert lamented this fact earlier in the month, saying that NIL prevented WSU from competing in the transfer portal.

On all the uncertainty prompting a potential record number of WSU players to enter the portal

Cougars cornerback Javan Robinson announced on Twitter last week that he was planning to make such an entrance despite two games remaining on the schedule. What’s stopping dozens of others from doing the same?

“It’s not a new concern. We’ve had those concerns every year,” Chun said. “I would just say that we owe it to our athletes and our coaches to provide some type of clarity for next year.”

On Washington State playing the long game

Right after that clarity statement, Chun emphasized how WSU A) is working on its scheduling partnership and B) has a two-year grace period from the NCAA that allows it and Oregon State to have access to future assets in the Pac-12. The thought – scratch that, the hope – is this will keep Washington State as relevant as possible in the short term to set them up for the future.

“Realignment is going to continue to happen, and Washington State has to just make sure that we’re positioned correctly as realignment continues to happen,” Chun said.

The interview was approximately 25 minutes and touched on an array of other topics. Chun denounced Pac-12 leadership over the years, particularly its inability to learn from mistakes. He said last week’s court ruling siding with WSU and Oregon State in their goal to take control of the Pac-12 governing board – a ruling that has since been stayed – “affirmed how the conference has been operating.” He didn’t say whether he had any interest in the open Ohio State AD job, but made it clear that the Pac-12 dissolving had everything to do with the Pac-12 failing and nothing to do with the other conferences.

So yeah, lots of concern, but also some hope – especially with the College Football Playoff adding eight teams next season.

“The best part of where realignment sits is that this sport is going to change significantly because of the 12-team playoff,” Chun said. “Now it’s going to open up a little bit, and hopefully, we can put ourselves in a position – that’ll be the goal. And the nice thing is we got a goal.”