There are a lot of universities and athletic programs that feel like they are on the outside looking in as it relates to conference realignment and the reality of just three or four super conferences that will occupy the College Football Playoff and maybe even the March Madness tournament.
When you think of these “outsiders” per se, the teams that come to mind are those who aren’t situated inside a current power conference. I think of teams like Boise State, Fresno State, Coastal Carolina, Georgetown, etc.
But other schools ARE in some of the more premier conferences right this second that should be nervous about what the future holds. Some of those are in the ACC, and some of them are in the PAC-12.
Specifically, Oregon State.
Obviously, the big players in the conference are Washington and Oregon. Those two schools on their own are likely to be highly coveted by conferences like the Big 10 or Big 12 down the road.
Right now, we know the Big 10 is done adding teams for at least two years, and we know that the PAC-12 and Big 12 aren’t planning on partnering themselves together.
But that doesn’t mean that individual teams inside the conference could leave themselves, leaving a barren wasteland for those who are left.
In simpler terms: Washington and Oregon could leave the PAC-12 on their own accord and leave schools like Oregon state to die.
So, where does that leave the Beavers? They are a school in a market that certainly doesn’t bring in much revenue. They haven’t necessarily been a banner of success in athletics.
They’ve played in one bowl game in the last eight seasons. They hadn’t played in a major or meaningful bowl game since 2000 when they won the Fiesta Bowl. Essentially, it’s been 21 years of mediocrity with no reason to believe that there is set to be a seismic change anytime soon. Since 2008, the Beavers have defeated their rival, Oregon, just twice.
Oh, and Oregon State is currently going through a remodel of Reser Stadium, which comes at a pretty terrible time because money is about to be tight.
Maybe basketball is better? You’d be wrong. They have made the NCAA tournament two times since 1990. This past season, they won a whopping three games, and things there aren’t looking much better either. It isn’t a great time to have a couple of bombing seasons in the two most essential revenue sports as you try to bolster a potential move to another conference.
I don’t think there are any power moves that they can make. They can’t pitch themselves to another conference and expect to receive an invite. Maybe Oregon cares about the rivalry enough that they will ensure they are a package no matter where they go. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Right now, the best action plan for Oregon State is to pray. Pray that the PAC-10 (losing UCLA and USC removes the PAC-12 standing) stays intact and that teams like ASU, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah don’t try to bolt for the Big 12 if they are invited. Oregon State would seem to benefit from the PAC-12 even going out and adding teams like Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, and San Diego State, just as the Big 12 did with Cincinnati, UCF, BYU, and Houston.
Long story short…Oregon State is not in the driver’s seat.
They are no better than a mid-major in their current state, and as the PAC-12 loses more teams, their likelihood of being a major player in college athletics seems bleaker and bleaker.
Let’s go ahead and give you a hypothetical. Let’s say that in the next two years, Oregon and Washington strike deals to leave the conference and move elsewhere. Let’s also assume that the four aforementioned PAC-12 teams head to the Big 12.
That would leave Cal, Washington State, Oregon State, and Stanford all holding onto a thread that they can keep going.
The best option for the Beavers would be to band together with the other four universities and try to join a smaller but still reasonably relevant athletic conference. My pick would be the Mountain West Conference.
There are already some great programs in there like the Broncos, the Bulldogs, Lobos, Aztecs, and Rebels. If they go ahead and add those four remaining PAC-12 schools, they are a legit conference.
Are they a super conference? No. Are they a Power 5 conference? No. Will they produce a few teams that can make it into the deep rounds of March Madness and secure a couple of fun bowl games? Absolutely.
This seems like the level of play that Oregon State should be in anyways, considering their lack of real success in the PAC-12.
The future doesn’t feel like the brightest, but there is still a good path for the Beavers, and there is still a way for them to be a competitive athletics program that gives student-athletes a chance. Maybe it isn’t how we are used to them doing that, but something is better than nothing.