State of WSU Cougars football and more: Interim AD on the future

Jun 10, 2024, 12:00 PM | Updated: 12:00 pm

WSU Cougars Oregon 2023...

The WSU Cougars run onto the field before their game against Oregon in 2023. (Lydia Ely/Getty Images)

(Lydia Ely/Getty Images)

The WSU Cougars face an uncertain future in college athletics’ ever-changing landscape.

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With the Pac-12’s implosion last August, 10 of the conference’s 12 schools are set to leave the league this summer for either the Big Ten, Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference. WSU and Oregon State were the two Pac-12 schools left behind, putting them in a challenging situation as they try to chart a path forward and remain relevant in this new era of college sports.

WSU interim athletic director Anne McCoy is tasked leading the Cougars through these unprecedented times. McCoy, who has worked in WSU’s athletic department since 2001, was named the interim athletic director on March 27 after former AD Pat Chun moved across state to take the same job at UW.

McCoy joined Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy last week to discuss how WSU is navigating its current situation. Here are a few highlights of what she said.

WSU Cougars’ partnership with Oregon State

As the two member schools who weren’t scooped up by other conferences, WSU and Oregon State plan to carry the Pac-12 banner for the next two years, with NCAA bylaws granting a two-year grace period for conferences to build themselves back up to at least eight members in the event schools depart. Given that both schools are in a similar situation, McCoy said she and Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes have been in frequent communication.

“I think we’ve really tried to be very intentional about keeping each other looped in on a variety of things and really discussing strategically – both between our two institutions and the Pac-12 – how do we reimagine this opportunity that’s been presented before us?” McCoy said. “The two institutions are similar but also different, and so there’s some things that we are maybe slightly different than each other on. But I think the important part is that philosophically we are aligned.”

The scheduling situation

For football, WSU and Oregon State secured a scheduling agreement with the Mountain West for the next two seasons. Neither team will be able to compete for the Mountain West title, but the agreement helps both teams fill out their schedules. The Cougars will face eight Mountain West teams this fall: San Jose State, Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, San Diego State, Utah State, New Mexico and Wyoming.

For most other sports, including basketball, WSU and Oregon State will spend the next two years as affiliate members of the West Coast Conference. Unlike with football, the Cougars and Beavers will be eligible to compete in WCC postseason championships, such as the WCC men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. They also will be eligible to earn NCAA Tournament and NCAA Championship berths through those WCC postseason events.

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“I think for the near future, we feel really good about where things are at,” McCoy said of the scheduling situation. “I think through the two-year grace period that the NCAA affords the Pac-12 to remain as a legal entity … the partnerships with the WCC and the Mountain West have been tremendous both either as scheduling agreements or affiliate memberships. That has been critical to really maintaining that scheduling certainty, because we need a path forward to be able to compete for championships (and) to have our student-athletes have some certainty. I think that was the hardest part earlier in the year, when our student-athletes and our coaches weren’t exactly sure who we would be competing against and where we would be competing and calling home.

“And so I think the scheduling part for the next two years I feel really good about in all of our sports. I think beyond that is really where we’re gonna have to do a lot of soul-searching and brainstorming and just no stone left unturned what our paths will be, because the scheduling situation is real, for sure. It’s critical. And two years is great, but it’s gonna go quick.”

Goals for this football season

This football season will obviously look quite different, with WSU facing predominantly Mountain West teams. The good news is that WSU and Oregon State were able to secure some TV exposure for their programs, as both schools recently signed a TV deal with The CW and FOX Sports to broadcast all of their home games. The Cougars will have five home games on CW, while their Sept. 7 non-conference home game against Texas Tech will air either on FOX or FS1.

As the Cougs get set for a drastically different football season, what does McCoy see as the big-picture goals for WSU football this fall?

“First, absolutely to provide a great student-athlete experience, winning as absolute many games as we can and a great product for our fans,” McCoy said. “But I think at the end of the day what we’re looking at is really the ability to still have a very strong presence in the West for college football. And so (it’s great that we get) to play our home and largely all of our away games in the West Coast footprint and really keep that presence of high-level college football thriving, but also sharing the Washington State brand to the media partnership.

“Also, I think there’s a little curiosity right now with these two schools (WSU and Oregon State) and kind of showing (people) what we’re all about and making our brand continue to be as strong as it can be and really having some great new partnerships and rivalries. But at the end of the day, just putting Washington State in the best possible position of strength going forward to be able to exercise any and all possible options. I think it’s also an opportunity for Coug fans to just get back to doing what we love, which is coming together, being connected and supporting our teams and our university and putting the focus there.”

Listen to the full conversation with WSU Cougars athletic director Anne McCoy at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. Tune in to Bump and Stacy weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

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State of WSU Cougars football and more: Interim AD on the future