AAC says it won't expand 'westward' as Oregon State and Washington State look for a conference

Cal and Stanford were invited to the ACC on Friday along with SMU

Oregon State and Washington State seem destined for the Mountain West.

The American Athletic Conference announced Friday that it would not be pursuing expansion “westward” after SMU was invited to the ACC on Friday morning. The Mustangs are joining the ACC along with Cal and Stanford.

Cal, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington State were left as the four remaining Pac-12 schools following the departures of Oregon, USC, UCLA and Washington to the Big Ten, and Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah to the Big 12. With Cal and Stanford in a weeks-long flirtation with the ACC before the conference’s vote Friday, the AAC and Mountain West had both said they were examining the possibility of adding Oregon State and Washington State.

That possibility is no more for the AAC, however.

“We have known that today’s move was a possibility, which has allowed us time to investigate a number of options, including consideration of the larger group of institutions in the Pacific time zone,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. “We have concluded, however, that the best way to proceed for our outstanding student-athletes is to not look westward. Instead, we plan to focus any expansion efforts on schools that allow for sensible and sustainable competition and student-athlete well-being within our strong geographic footprint. We look forward to continued success as a leading FBS conference.”

OSU and WSU set for significant revenue decreases

The current Pac-12 schools received $37 million each from the conference’s 2021-22 revenue distribution. Those figures were released less than two months before UCLA and USC announced they would be heading for the Big Ten — and significantly more money — in 2024.

With the expiration of the conference’s current media rights deal in the summer of 2024 and the loss of the Bruins and Trojans, the Pac-12 was unable to get bids from prospective rights holders that could top that $37 million figure. That led to Oregon and Washington bolting to the Big Ten and the Big 12 adding four schools, while Stanford and Cal are taking a reduced rate to join the ACC.

Now, the Mountain West looks like the only option for Oregon State and Washington State unless the Big 12 makes a surprising move to add both of them. And a move to the Mountain West — or the AAC for that matter — would come with far less money than the schools are accustomed to getting.

Current Mountain West members receive approximately $4 million each through its TV deals with Fox and CBS. While the figure could increase if Oregon State and Washington State join, it won’t increase enough to make the annual distribution anything close to what both schools currently receive. That lack of revenue will likely significantly impact the athletic departments at both schools without a huge influx of supplemental income.