Mailbag: WSU and OSU link arms as their playoff path widens, ‘Pac-2’ reverse merger matters, UCLA’s net revenue and more

The Beavers and Cougars will have a better chance to reach the CFP despite carnage

Are Oregon State and Washington State joined in holy matrimony, ’til death do them part? If so, what is the best possible outcome for the duo? — @tailgatestate

We’ll let Oregon State President Jayathi Murthy answer that question on her own.

Murthy was asked about OSU and Washington State working together after the Pac-12 fell apart during a news conference held from afar on Friday.

It was lovely how we were matched, she said.

That alignment is both built in and natural. Because the schools are land-grant and don’t have as many resources as schools in Washington and Oregon, they are built on the same model and face many of the same problems.

And now that the Pac-12 is gone, they are the only ones on the Power Five seas.

They can either join the Mountain West or rebuild the conference, which would be a huge task but could be the most profitable.

They have no choice but to join together into the next era.

If Oregon State and Washington State go to the Mountain West, do you see their College Football Playoff chances going up, down or staying the same? — @BennyL1986

Before I answer, I want to make it clear that the Hotline is in no way downplaying how bad the collapse of the Pac-12 is for the Beavers and Cougars.

It’s a huge problem for them on many levels, and it could make it much harder for them to fund sports teams and keep the number of jobs in their athletic departments at the same level.

But as long as OSU and WSU can play in the College Football Playoff, which is by no means an unimportant factor, every possible future scenario is better for them than if the Pac-12 had stayed together.

When the conference grows at the end of next season, the Beavers and Cougars will have more options for getting to the CFP. They can rebuild the conference, do a reverse merger with the Mountain West, or join the Mountain West in a traditional expansion move.

The approved format gives automatic bids to the six top-ranked conference champions. However, since the Pac-12 is falling apart, this could change.

Because the SEC and Big Ten want more spots for at-large teams, the number of automatic qualifiers (AQs) is likely to go down to five. There will only be four power conferences, though. In order for the rest of the FBS membership to be able to attend and to avoid a lawsuit, the CFP format must allow for one more AQ spot than there are power conferences.

If WSU and OSU join the Mountain West or change the Pac-12, it doesn’t matter. The winner of their conference will go up against the winners of the Sun Belt, the MAC, the Conference USA, and the American, which has lost all of its top football schools, for the last spot in the AQ.

We think that a rebuilt Pac-12 or a bigger Mountain West would be the best non-power conference. The Beavers and Cougars won’t need to be ranked in the top 10 or top 12 or have a 12-1 or 11-2 record. All they have to do is be ranked higher than the winner in the MAC, the American, the C-USA, and the Sun Belt.

We think their chances of winning the new conference and defending their title are much better than their chances of winning the Pac-12 with Oregon, Washington, and Utah still in it.

We think they have a great chance of becoming the top-ranked champion outside of the SEC, ACC, Big 12, and Big Ten, as long as the administrations put in the necessary effort.

This year’s playoffs will be different from any other because they will be bigger. It is thought that both Murthy at OSU and Schulz at WSU will see that the chaos holds a huge opportunity.

Previously, you cited three options for WSU and OSU, including “rebuild the Pac-12 with teams from the Mountain West.” I am curious about the reasons you did not include a rebuild with “the best of the rest” from the MW and American. — John Lamar

That is a choice, but there is a big problem with it: exit fees.

We don’t think the American schools are useful for rebuilding because they are spread out and don’t get much attention from the media. Also, if someone wanted to steal the Mountain West before the 2024 season, the schools would have to pay about $34 million in departure fees, which isn’t fair.

But if the Cougars and Beavers rebuilt the Pac-12 with all of the Mountain West’s schools as members, those schools could vote to end their own league and join the Pac-12. There would be no exit fees if there were no conference.

A normal expansion move, with OSU and WSU joining the Mountain West, would be the easiest choice for everyone. But it’s possible that the schools would lose tens of millions of dollars in Pac-12 assets that they would own if the conference stays a legal entity.

I’ve read that the Big 12 has allegedly stated otherwise, but if the ACC turns down Cal and Stanford, what are the chances of the Big 12 absorbing the Pac-4? — @WHS1969

Even though it doesn’t matter now, the odds weren’t zero, so you should have ignored what you read.

The Big 12 is set with 16 schools and should be good for the next few years.

The reverse merger between Pac-2 and the Mountain West almost makes too much sense. So what do the universities involved think of it, and what are the obstacles to making it happen? — @pfnnewmedia

The universities haven’t come to any decisions yet as they try to figure out how much money the Pac-12 has and how much it owes. The process is not for the presidents and athletic directors. It is for the lawyers and financial officers. It might take a few more weeks too.

There are also eyes in the Mountain West. The value of the Pac-12 brand and the wealth of its assets might be enough to persuade the 12 schools that leaving their current conference and joining the Pac-12 is the best way to make money.

But, as you might guess, that’s a very difficult process on many levels.

How does a Group of Five conference elevate itself to a Power Five conference? Is it just tradition, or is there a path the new ‘Pac-2’ could take to regain Power Five status? — @BakerMeow

The Power Five conferences decide which conferences are Power Five. They got that power through the NCAA legislative process.

Don’t worry—the Big Ten, SEC, and Big 12 will not help the “Pac-2” or any other Group of Five league, no matter what its make-up is.

But, as we already said, the heavyweights will protect a playoff path for the Group of Five out of fear of an antitrust lawsuit.

I’ve heard different reports as to how much Oregon and Washington are going to receive in the Big Ten in this media cycle. So what is the true amount? — Kent Pflugrath

We don’t have the exact number because it’s hidden in a contract that most likely will never be made public.

But it doesn’t really matter what the number is. Over the course of the six-year contract, the schools will get about half of the Big Ten’s media shares, which is about $32.5 million a year, or $200 million all together.

No matter what the exact number is—$183 million, $207 million, or something else—the Huskies and Ducks will be far behind their opponents and will need to find other ways to make money to get the resources they need to compete for playoff spots.

Oregon has an easier time with that because of you know who.

Why would the UC Regents not mandate that Cal and UCLA be in the same conference by requiring UCLA to leave the Big Ten at the earliest opportunity, unless Cal has been invited to join the conference by such time? — @RajaMuh16021485

Last year, the regents made it clear that they will not force schools to join a conference. They could have made UCLA change its mind or insisted that the Bruins could only join the Big Ten with Cal.

It seems like the choice was even more important now than it was at the time.

With the collapse of the Pac-12 and the Bears’ move to the ACC, which means they will get less money, the regents will seriously think about giving UCLA an annual subsidy to help its sister school’s athletic department. (The amount paid can be anywhere from $2 million to $10 million.)

The Bruins were much worse off in that way after the chaos of the past month.

Plan to take out at least $15 million from the amount they expect to get from the Big Ten each year in media revenue. This includes about $10 million in higher travel costs and the highest possible subsidy.

Big Ten full-share schools will get an average of $65 million over the course of the contract cycle. The Bruins will only get about $50 million.

The two most important things in realignment have been TV market size (not actual viewership) and brand strength. How is “brand” strength measured? — @nickbeatty72

The media companies figure out how much each football program is worth by looking at a number of factors, such as the number of people who follow them on social media.

But TV ratings, which show how many people have watched a school’s shows over a period of years, are very important for figuring out brand value.

A decade ago, homes with cable TV were what caused realignment. Colorado joined the Pac-12 because the Denver market brought in money and attention.

Now, brand, or the ability to get high ratings, is the main thing that determines value. The size of the Portland media market (No. 21) doesn’t show how valuable Oregon is to Fox and the Big Ten. Instead, it’s the Ducks’ national brand, which can be seen in how many people have watched them over the years.

What does the future hold for the Hotline? Will you soon be the authority on Big XVI, Big 18, Pac-2 and Mountain West teams? — @BauerOnTheMic

No matter what conference a school is in, the Hotline covers issues that are important to all schools in the Pac-12 boundaries.

We went by the name “College Hotline” for most of our existence. It wasn’t until the late 2010s that we changed our name to “Pac-12 Hotline.”

Since we changed our name, the conference hasn’t taken part in the CFP, so maybe it’s us.

That’s still up in the air; maybe we’ll switch to Wilner Hotline, which is my Twitter handle.

No matter what, we’ll keep you up to date on all the news and analysis that affects the game, both on and off the field.

Thanks to everyone who has stuck with us over the years.

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