Latest on WSU football: How Mountain West figures into schedule; Cam Ward status
Nov 29, 2023, 12:27 AM
(Lydia Ely/Getty Images)
The WSU Cougars will soon have a completed 2024 football schedule. And it will be heavy on Mountain West schools, as most expected.
WSU and Oregon State have entered the final stages of negotiating an agreement with the Mountain West that will require WSU and OSU to pay the conference around $14 million next year, according to a Yahoo Sports report.
Under the agreement, Mountain West schools will play a “7+1” schedule that includes seven conference games and one against either WSU or OSU. The Beavers and Cougars will not be eligible to play for the Mountain West Conference championship, but the agreement will buy time to chart their path forward as they fight for Pac-12 distributions that will exceed $100 million after 2024.
An official scheduling announcement is expected in the coming days.
The Cougars currently have just four games on their 2024 schedule. They kick off the year Aug. 31 against Portland State in Pullman, visit San Diego State on Sept. 7, play the Apple Cup with the UW Huskies at Lumen Field on Sept. 14, then return to Pullman for a Sept. 21 matchup against San Jose State.
WSU’s road games against Mountain West teams next year will appear on FOX and CBS Sports, the Mountain West’s current television partners. WSU athletic director Pat Chun said earlier this month the school is expected to take their home games to market in hopes of finding a television partner.
The Yahoo Sports report comes at a precarious juncture for WSU. In last Saturday’s Apple Cup, the Cougars nearly upset the now third-ranked Huskies but were ultimately thwarted on a last-second field goal in a 24-21 defeat. The loss dropped WSU to 5-7, denying them a bowl bid for the first time since 2014 (not counting the COVID-shortened 2020 season).
With the transfer portal opening Dec. 4 and WSU’s NIL collective lagging far behind most Power 5 programs, fans are concerned players could leave en masse. WSU is facing a roughly $30 million drop in media revenue next season after the Pac-12’s current television deal expires next August.
Cam Ward awaiting NIL riches?
In the final minutes of the Apple Cup loss, WSU quarterback Cam Ward tried to squeeze a throw into tight coverage on third-and-11 rather than take off into an open secondary and run for a first down. The ball fell incomplete, causing WSU’s potential game-winning drive to stall. It was the type of play that maddened Cougars fans during Ward’s two-year tenure in Pullman, when he showed flashes of brilliance and a lot of inconsistency.
Schools are betting they can get more brilliance out of Ward. During Monday’s edition of Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, co-host and FOX college football analyst Brock Huard reported that seven-figure NIL offers have flooded in for the junior signal-caller.
“Let’s just say I heard from one source, and a pretty dialed in one, that Cam Ward… has 10 seven-figure deals waiting for him,” Huard said. “He has 10 different deals from around the country that will pay him seven figures to come be their quarterback.”
It’s unclear if Ward, who plans to first explore his NFL options, could transfer without getting a waiver from the NCAA. He previously transferred once from Incarnate Ward, so he’d likely need to graduate from WSU to be eligible at another program.
Update on Pac-12 court battle
The Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a stay on a Whitman County Court’s ruling to give WSU and OSU full control of the Pac-12 board. The move kept intact a temporary restraining order that forces every school in the Pac-12 to make decisions unanimously. It essentially keeps WSU and OSU from making any decisions about the conference’s future.
It’s unclear if the order is a blow to WSU and OSU’s bid to gain control of the roughly $100 million in future earnings the conference would take in distributions after 2024. WSU plans to use that money to help fund their athletic department as they account for the drop in television revenue.
The court commissioner said it will decide whether to hear the case or move it to a state court of appeals by December 12, eight days past the original schedule. In the meantime, WSU and OSU plan to appeal directly to the court’s judges to have an injunction restored that would allow them to assume control of the board.
The latest move comes after the University of Washington – acting with the nine schools leaving the Pac-12 – filed a motion opposing the Whitman County Court’s decision to give control of the board to WSU and OSU. The conference is expected to bring in more than $400 million in 2023-24 revenue, which it distributes to all 12 schools.
WSU and OSU released a statement saying they were disappointed in the decision.
“We are disappointed in the Washington Supreme Court commissioner’s decision to temporarily allow the departing schools to have veto power over Pac-12 board matters while they appeal the superior court’s well-reasoned decision to grant Oregon State’s and Washington State’s request to govern as the Pac-12’s sole remaining members.
“The lawsuit is still pending, and this motion was for temporary relief pending appeal. OSU and WSU will be seeking court review of the Commissioner’s decision.”
UW and the nine departing schools were unsurprisingly more upbeat.
“We are pleased that the Washington Supreme Court has put on hold the preliminary injunction that would have given OSU and WSU sole control of the Pac-12 Conference. The decision effectively ensures that all 12 current members will have an equal voice in determining how the revenue our schools earned this year is distributed and utilized while the Court considers our arguments.
“The combined earnings of 12 schools during the 2023-2024 academic year should not be unilaterally governed by just two institutions while we all remain members of the Conference.”
Adam Lewis is a freelance sportswriter in the Seattle area. He has previously worked at the SeattlePI.com, MLB.com and Sportspress Northwest. Follow him on social media here.
More on the WSU Cougars
• Lewis: Apple Cup is here to stay – whether Cougs like it or not
• WSU Cougars men’s hoops beats EWU 82-72 behind Rice’s 28 points
• Apple Cup Recap: No. 4 UW Huskies beat WSU Cougars 24-21 on late FG