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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

WSU president Kirk Schulz talks media rights and Pac-12 Networks, CFP shares and changing commissioners

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

Washington State and Oregon State won control of the Pac-12’s governing board late last year.

They agreed to football scheduling partnerships with the Mountain West for two years and placed their basketball teams and Olympic sports in the West Coast Conference.

They cut ties with Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff, promoted his deputy, Teresa Gould, and secured their share of the College Football Playoff revenue for two years.

Six months after the collapse of the conference – and five months after they were abandoned by Stanford and California – the ‘Pac-2’ schools have masterfully executed a survival strategy.

Next up on their to-do list: the media component.

The Cougars and Beavers must find broadcast partners for their football games in the 2024-25 seasons and determine the future of the Pac-12 Networks’ production studio.

The latter should be resolved sooner than later – perhaps in the next month, Washington State President Kirk Schulz said Tuesday in a wide-ranging interview.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” he said.

The networks will cease to exist as a media company this summer when their distribution agreements expire.

But WSU and OSU are exploring options for the networks’ cutting-edge infrastructure and the 42,000-square foot production studio in San Ramon, California.

Could the technology be used by the outbound schools, which must produce hundreds of on-campus events for their new conferences’ digital media partners?

Would Apple or Amazon lease the Pac-12’s production team and equipment for their sports content?

Could the Cougars and Beavers somehow make use of the networks for their own events in the future?

“It could turn into an entity that’s a real revenue generator,” Schulz said. “We’re exploring what that looks like.”

The two schools are also shopping their home football games for the next two seasons and hope to have clarity “relatively soon,” Schulz said.

One reason for the urgency: settling on game times.

Schulz said WSU’s attendance is more correlated to the kickoff window (afternoon or night) than to the opponent.

Adding to the complicated calculation: striking a balance between revenue and exposure.

Should the schools, for example, accept more lucrative deals on less visible networks at inconvenient times? Or should they prioritize being seen, both in person and on TV, over an extra few million dollars per year?

“We’d love lots of money and exposure, but there’s really a tradeoff,” Schulz said.

Other news and notes related to WSU and OSU:

• The settlement between the ‘Pac-2’ schools and the outbound universities has not been finalized as the two sides “work through the last details,” Schulz said.

Asked specifically about how liabilities would be handled, he said there is “active dialogue.”

• WSU and OSU on Monday appointed deputy commissioner Gould to lead the conference without any limiting terms attached to her title – she’s not the acting or interim commissioner – because of the scope of her role.

“She wanted to work with us on the future assets, more of the strategy issues,” Schulz said. “She’s not just running the operations of the conference. She’s going to help us map the future.”

He did not disclose the terms of outgoing commissioner Kliavkoff’s separation agreement but said Kliavkoff handled the situation “professionally.”

“I appreciate that he took the high road. He could have made this difficult for everybody.”

• Schulz, who represents the Pac-12 on the College Football Playoff’s board of managers, confirmed that WSU and OSU will receive their full CFP distributions (approximately $6 million each) in the 2024-25 seasons – the final years of the playoff’s contract with ESPN.

Largely because of his position on the CFP board, Schulz has a larger public presence than Oregon State president Jayathi Murthy. But he emphasized the two members of the Pac-12 board work together and called Murthy “a great partner who’s very strategic.”

• WSU anticipates receiving its first men’s NCAA Tournament berth in 16 years as fifth-year coach Kyle Smith churns toward both Pac-12 and national honors.

His contract runs through the 2027 season and pays $1.5 million annually, according to the USA Today salary database.

The Cougars are in “continual conversations” about keeping Smith, according to Schulz.

“Given the likelihood of us being in the NCAAs, he’ll be on a lot of short lists (to fill vacancies elsewhere),” Schulz said. “We’re going to put our best offer on the table.”