Beavers Need Teams to Play, Players to Stay and $40 Million in Revenue
Oregon State University finds itself marooned on a college football island along with Washington State University following the decimation of the Pac-!2. Top OSU officials pleaded for help from Oregon legislators, citing the loss of teams to play and television revenues to collect.
President Jayathi Y. Murthy and Athletic Director Scott Barnes told the House Interim Higher Education Committee earlier this month that projected OSU athletic revenues in Fiscal Year 2025 will be almost $45 million less than Fiscal Year 2024. Projected ticket sales would be down $1 million, concessions would decline 20 percent and Pac-12 media revenues would nosedive from almost $43 million to $5 million.
The revenue decline would impact the entire OSU athletic department, not just football. Like most universities, football is the main breadwinner that supports other male and female sports. There are also debt payments for major $162 million expansion at Reser Stadium that could be affected by a revenue drop-off.
Murthy and Barnes were joined at the hearing by OSU women’s rower Evan Park who testified, “We are united in our feelings of being left out of the conference realignment conversation. All student-athlete experiences and needs should be brought into the equation when these decisions are made.”
OSU and WSU prevailed in a recent court ruling that gave them control of the remnants of the former Conference of Champions, including broadcast revenues from the current football season and ownership of a Power 5 conference that has residual value and could be rebuilt. “We filed legal action to preserve OSU’s and WSU’s ability to maintain the assets and explore the future viability of the Pac-12 Conference,” Murthy said.
The ruling is likely to be appealed by the 10 defecting schools, including the University of Oregon.
Year of Destiny
Next year is OSU’s rendezvous with destiny. The 10th ranked Beavers have to cobble together a 12-game schedule through an ad hoc arrangement with the 11-team Mountain West Conference, hustle some kind of media deal and retain its star players in the transfer portal era. And it has to plug a $40 million projected deficit next year.
The Pac-2 for the next two years may feature one conference game between OSU and WSU with 11 non-conference games (and maybe 12 if either school schedules a game against the University of Hawaii). The Mountain West is not a patsy conference, with members located in the West that are in or near major media markets. The marriage of the future could see the Mountain West teams reconstitute the Pac-12 as the Pac-13.
Whether or not the promise of playing home-and-home series against the likes of Boise State, Wyoming, San Jose State and Utah State will help OSU retain its star players remains to be seen after the college transfer portal reopens in December. Whether the Beavers and Cougars can continue to recruit top players successfully also is an open question.
Possible Deep Pocket Help
Nike co-founder Phil Knight didn’t attend OSU, but Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of high-flying Nvidia, is a Beaver Believer graduate. Huang forked over $50 million to OSU’s School of Engineering last year to conduct research into artificial intelligence and robotics, key markets for Nvidia’s microchips.
He may be asked to pledge a handsome sum to entice a legislative investment in a future of an OSU-led Pac-12 revival. It isn’t clear whether Governor Kotek or the Democratically controlled legislature will warm up to the idea of a temporary OSU bailout.
Hollywood Season Ending
Like a Hollywood script, OSU’s plight will be a major story line in two weeks when the Beavers and the Oregon Ducks play their next and possibly last football rivalry game at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. The rivalry, formerly known as the Civil War, started in 1894
The game is more than nostalgic. The winner could get a ticket to play in the Pac-12 championship game in Las Vegas, with an outside chance of qualifying for the national championship.
Before kick-off against the Ducks on November 24, OSU hosts a home game Saturday against the undefeated University of Washington Huskies, the other Northwest team that bolted from the Pac-12 to the Big 10.