Oregon and Washington are finalizing a deal to join the Big Ten, sources told ESPN, a move that continues to dwindle the Pac-12 and puts that conference’s future in the crosshairs.
The schools are expected to formally apply for membership Friday, sources said, and a Big Ten vote is expected to take place this evening, according to sources.
The Big Ten vote is expected to be unanimous for them to join in 2024, sources said, despite some initial pushback from schools in the league on admitting the two schools.
The finances of the move are not immediately clear, but both Oregon and Washington will receive only a partial share of the conference allotment through the length of its upcoming television deal, which goes through the 2029-30 school year.
The move would push the Big Ten to 18 schools. Starting in 2024, that will include a Western wing of USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington. None of those schools are required to pay an exit fee because of the Pac-12’s expiring television deal.
The departures put Oregon and Washington’s former conference, the century-old Pac-12, in flux. Arizona has applied to and been admitted to the Big 12, ESPN sources said, although that deal has yet to be finalized. And conversations between the Big 12 and Utah and Arizona State ramped up on Friday, sources said.
With the Pac-12’s television deal expiring after the 2023-24 school year, the conference is in peril. The departure of Colorado last week, the loss of Oregon and Washington and the expected departure of Arizona leave the league gutted.
The only certainties moving forward are California, Stanford, Oregon State and Washington State. The Pac-12 can’t just add Mountain West programs to the league in 2024, as there is a $32 million exit fee per Mountain West school to leave before the start of the 2025 football season.
Oregon and Washington’s decision to go to the Big Ten won’t be a financial windfall in the short term. The deal is expected to escalate each year, but it’s still only in the neighborhood of a half-share of what the other 16 teams in the conference are expected to get. A source said the payouts would grow every year and be competitive with, and perhaps surpass, the payouts of leagues like Big 12 and ACC.
That Big Ten full-share number is fluid, so schools don’t have clarity on it yet. That’s because the Big Ten longform television contract isn’t complete along with variables like College Football Playoff money and NCAA tournament units, but a fair projection is nearly $70 million annually.
The numbers from the Big Ten were being compared to the ambiguity of the numbers the Pac-12 received in its stream-heavy deal from Apple, which included subscription incentives that needed to be hit for the schools to make big money.
The Big Ten and Washington and Oregon went back into deep discussions Friday morning, sources said, after the Pac-12 presidents call ended quickly because of a lack of comfort moving forward with the primary streaming deal.
The move makes the Big Ten the first major conference to push to 18 teams and will further the notion of a push toward super conferences. The SEC will make its debut as a 16-team conference with Texas and Oklahoma in 2024, the same year that the Big Ten will roll out its West Coast additions. The Big 12 is officially up to 13, and that number could rise soon.
Oregon and Washington represent strong football additions for the Big Ten, as they have taken part in the College Football Playoff. They will join Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan as CFP teams in that league.