Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) looks to pass the ball in the second half of the College Football Playoff national championship game against Washington at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on Monday, January 8, 2024.

CFP revamps new 12-team playoff structure, adds at-large bid

The College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams for the upcoming season includes an altered format featuring the five highest-ranked conference champions and the next seven highest-ranked teams.

The CFP Board of Managers voted Tuesday to modify the original plan, which called for the six highest-ranked champions to earn an automatic entry into the field, plus six at-large berths. The switch was necessary with the Pac-12 down to just two teams in 2024 following the defection of 10 programs to other conferences.

“This is a very logical adjustment for the College Football Playoff based on the evolution of our conference structures since the board first adopted this new format in September 2022,” said Dr. Mark Keenum, president of Mississippi State University and CFP board chair. “I know this change will also be well received by student-athletes, coaches and fans. We all will be pleased to see this new format come to life on the field this postseason.”

There is no limit on the number of teams that can qualify in each conference.

The shift was made with no objection from Washington State president Kirk Schulz, who represents the Pac-12 on the board. Oregon State will be the only other remaining Pac-12 team next season.

“For our two schools in the Pac-12 as it’s currently configured, there is no question that five-seven, with seven at-larges, is better than six at-larges,” Schulz told ESPN. “… There’s no question our football coaches are going to want to compete for one of those seven slots, and seven is going to be better than six.”

Under the 12-team playoff format that begins in the fall, the four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded one through four for the CFP tournament and will receive a first-round bye. Teams seeded five through 12 will play each other in the first round at the home of the higher ranked team.

Michigan is the defending CFP champion, defeating Washington in the title game on Jan. 8. Both schools will be members of the Big Ten next season as Washington departs the Pac-12.

–Field Level Media

Oct 25, 2022; San Francisco, CA, USA; Deputy commissioner Teresa Gould speaks during Pac-12 Women's Basketball Media Day at the Pac-12 Network Studios. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pac-12’s Teresa Gould first female commish of Power 5 conference

The Pac-12 on Monday promoted deputy commissioner Teresa Gould to commissioner, effective March 1, to replace the outgoing George Kliavkoff.

Gould will become the first woman to serve as commissioner of a Power 5 football conference.

“Teresa’s deep knowledge of collegiate athletics and unwavering commitment to student-athletes makes her uniquely qualified to help guide the Pac-12 Conference during this period of unprecedented change in college sports,” Washington State president Kirk Schulz said in a statement. “As the first female commissioner of an Autonomy Five conference, Teresa will be able to bring new perspectives and fresh ideas to the table as the industry works to find its way through this shifting landscape.”

Gould was appointed by Schulz and Oregon State president Jayathi Murthy. Their schools received control of Pac-12 decision-making in December because the remaining member institutions are departing for the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC later this year.

Washington State and Oregon State have set up a scheduling partnership with the Mountain West Conference for football and will join the West Coast Conference as an affiliate member in 12 men’s and women’s sports for at least the next two seasons. A news release said the Pac-12 “will continue to sponsor select sports, sign media rights partnership and produce live events and content” going forward.

“I look forward to partnering with Oregon State and Washington State to secure a bright future for their student-athletes that allows them to compete at the highest level of college athletics, while enjoying the benefits of a quality campus experience,” Gould said in a statement. “Working in collaboration with their leadership and our talented staff, I am excited to build a pathway for the future that allows their programs to thrive.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Eugene, Oregon, USA; A view of the PAC-12 field logo before the game between the Oregon Ducks and the Washington State Cougars at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon State, Wazzu reach settlement with exiting Pac-12 schools

The 10 departing members of the Pac-12 reached a settlement agreement with remaining schools Oregon State and Washington State to end litigation related to control of the conference.

As part of the deal announced Thursday, the exiting schools will give up some of their 2023-24 revenue, cede future control of league assets and agree to language against future litigation.

The sides reached an accord in the wake of the state of Washington’s Supreme Court decision last week that chose not to revisit a lower court’s ruling that gave control of the Pac-12 board of directors to the remaining schools.

Oregon State president Jayathi Murthy and Washington State president Kirk Schulz issued a joint statement on the matter Thursday.

“Today’s news marks a huge victory for our universities and a significant step toward stabilizing the Pac-12 Conference and preserving its 108-year legacy,” the statement read in part.

The latest news provides an additional measure of security for the two schools, particularly as it relates to potentially keeping the Pac-12 brand alive.

The two schools previously reached a scheduling agreement with the Mountain West Conference to play six Mountain West teams in football next fall, and more recently, secured an agreement with the West Coast Conference to host most of the rest of their sports.

But neither of those deals are long-term in nature, and the NCAA allows a conference a two-year grace period to continue to exist below the normal required seven active members.

Much speculation to this point has centered on a “reverse merger” wherein the entirety of the Mountain West schools would join the Pac-12, though Oregon State and Washington State now have additional time to weigh that proposal against other options.

–Field Level Media

Dec 1, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; The Pac-12 Conference logo at midfield at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Washington St., Oregon St. regain control of Pac-12 board

The Washington Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by the University of Washington and the Pac-12 on Friday, giving control of the Pac-12 board and the conference’s assets back to Oregon State and Washington State.

The state Supreme Court’s decision lifted a temporary stay that had halted a decision by the Whitman County (Wash.) Superior Court to award control to the two schools.

Oregon State and Washington State will remain in control until the case is settled or goes to trial.

“We are pleased with the Washington Supreme Court’s decision today,” Oregon State president Jayathi Murthy and Washington State president Kirk Schulz said in a joint statement. “We look forward to continuing our work of charting a path forward for the conference that is in the best interest of student-athletes and our wider university communities.”

In a joint statement earlier this week, Oregon State and Washington State — whose football scheduling agreement with the Mountain West met with unanimous approval — stopped a scheduled distribution of millions to all Pac-12 member schools, saying that departing schools should not receive conference money.

The 10 schools leaving the Pac-12 are concerned that Oregon State and Washington State could withhold all conference revenue for this season while those 10 schools are still part of the league.

Washington State and Oregon State believed the 10 departing members gave up their rights to be members of the board and make decisions affecting the conference once they announced their intentions to leave. Another concern for Washington State and Oregon State involved the exiting schools possibly voting to dissolve the Pac-12 and divvy up the assets.

–Field Level Media

Nov 4, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars wide receiver Lincoln Victor (5) is stopped alert short gain by Stanford Cardinal linebacker Tristan Sinclair (8) in the second half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Stanford won 10-7. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Washington court stays Pac-12 ruling

The Washington Supreme Court sided with the departing members of the Pac-12 on Tuesday, granting an emergency stay that, at least for now, thwarts an attempt by the remaining members — Oregon State and Washington State — to control the conference governing board.

At the end of this academic year, Oregon State and Washington State will be the only schools left in the conference after the other 10 jump to the Big Ten, Big 12 or Atlantic Coast Conference.

Earlier, a lower court granted an injunction that gave the two schools control of the conference and, most importantly, its income. With the stay issued Tuesday, all 12 teams still have a seat at the table.

Washington took the lead in the case on behalf of the 10 departing universities and took the case to the state Supreme Court. The group issued a statement praising the ruling.

“We are pleased that the Washington Supreme Court has put on hold the preliminary injunction that would have given OSU and WSU sole control of the Pac-12 Conference,” the joint statement said. “The decision effectively ensures that all 12 current members will have an equal voice in determining how the revenue our schools earned this year is distributed and utilized while the Court considers our arguments.

“This funding is vital to our ability to operate our athletics programs and to provide mental and physical health services, academic support, and other support programs for our student-athletes. The combined earnings of 12 schools during the 2023-2024 academic year should not be unilaterally governed by just two institutions while we all remain members of the Conference.”

Oregon State and Washington State intend to seek a review of the decision, ESPN reported. All parties were given until Dec. 12 to file motions.

“We are disappointed in the Washington Supreme Court Commissioner’s decision to temporarily allow the departing schools to have veto power over Pac-12 board matters while they appeal the superior court’s well-reasoned decision to grant Oregon State’s and Washington State’s request to govern as the Pac-12’s sole remaining members,” spokespersons for the two schools said in a joint statement.

“We did not create or seek these circumstances, but Oregon State and Washington State remain committed to taking aggressive action to protect our universities, ensure accountability and transparency, safeguard student-athletes and the Pac-12 Conference, and preserve our options moving forward.”

Controlling the conference funds would be beneficial to Oregon State and Washington State as they seek to hold on to, and rebuild, the historic conference.

–Field Level Media

Nov 18, 2023; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Oregon State Beavers fans cheering during the fourth quarter against the Washington Huskies at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Craig Strobeck-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Washington State, Oregon State finalizing MWC alliance

Oregon State and Washington State are finalizing an agreement that would ally the two remaining teams of the Pac-12 conference with the Mountain West Conference for the 2024 football season, Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday.

The Mountain West would receive a fee of about $14 million under the one-year agreement, which has a renewal option for 2025, per the report. A formal announcement could be made this week.

Under the agreement, the Mountain West teams would play seven conference games, plus an eighth against either Oregon State or Washington State.

Oregon State and Washington State were left behind when the other 10 teams of the conference decided to leave the conference for the 2024 season.

The Mountain West consists of Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State and Wyoming. Hawaii is a participant in football.

Under the agreement, Oregon State and Washington State would not be eligible to play for the Mountain West title and they will play as “quasi-independents under the Pac-12 banner,” Yahoo reported.

At this time, the scheduling partnership would apply only to football. Talks are in progress for a potential scheduling agreement for men’s and women’s basketball, and the two Pac-12 schools are discussing affiliate memberships with leagues for other sports.

Oregon State finished the regular football season at 8-4 (5-4 Pac-12). Washington State began the season 4-0, which included a win over the Beavers, and concluded with a 5-7 (2-7) mark.

UNLV (9-3, 6-2 MWC) will host Boise State (7-5, 6-2) on Saturday in the Mountain West championship game.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Stanford, California, USA; A view of the Pac-12 logo on the field as Stanford Cardinal wide receiver David Kasemervisz (80) warms up before the game against the UCLA Bruins at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Washington court issues stay regarding control of Pac-12

The court ruling putting Washington State and Oregon State in control of the Pac-12 Conference was blocked Thursday when the Washington State Supreme Court issued a temporary stay.

The latest decision came after the University of Washington, representing the 10 universities that will exit the conference at the start of the next school year, sought to block the Tuesday ruling made by Whitman County (Wash.) Superior Court Judge Gary Libey.

The emergency stay blocks the two remaining schools from having the only votes on league matters.

According to ESPN, the sides were asked to submit briefs on the case by Nov. 28 and replies by Dec. 8.

Representatives for Oregon State and Washington State wrote in a joint statement, “The departing schools are only delaying the inevitable because the superior court clearly got it right: Under the bylaws, the Conference’s future must be decided by the schools that stay, not those that are leaving.”

After the Superior Court ruling on Tuesday, CBS Sports reported that Oregon State and Washington State intend to compete as a two-team football league next year, though the schools were in contact with representatives of the Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt Conference, American Athletic Conference, Conference USA and Mid-American Conference in the search for games in 2024.

Southern California, UCLA, Washington and Oregon are set to join the Big Ten next season, while Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah will head to the Big 12. Cal and Stanford will move to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Stanford, California, USA; A view of the Pac-12 logo on the field as Stanford Cardinal wide receiver David Kasemervisz (80) warms up before the game against the UCLA Bruins at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Court grants Oregon St., Wazzu control of Pac-12

Oregon State and Washington State earned a legal victory on Tuesday that gives them control of what remains of the Pac-12 Conference.

Whitman County (Wash.) Superior Court Judge Gary Libey granted the schools’ request for a preliminary injunction that strips representatives of the conference’s other 10 schools — all of whom are leaving for other conferences next season — of votes on the Pac-12 board.

Libey said he made his ruling, after a 2 1/2-hour hearing, based on the fact that Oregon State and Washington State could experience “irreparable harm” if the exiting universities would remain in control of the Pac-12’s assets.

“Voting will be by the remaining two board members, but this is not a shutout,” Libey said, according to The Athletic. “The preliminary injunction will be modified or whatever you want to call it to make sure that the other 10 schools are still treated in a fair, open manner. Nobody is going to take advantage of somebody else. If that starts to happen, I’ll either hear about it here or somebody down the street will. I do not believe that the two plaintiffs here, the two members of the board that are left, will do anything directly to harm the other 10 members.”

Washington State president Kirk Schulz and athletic director Pat Chun said in a joint statement, in part, “It has always been our view that the future of the Pac-12 should be determined by the remaining members, not by those schools that are leaving the conference.”

Oregon State president Jayathi Murthy and athletic director Scott Barnes added in a statement, “We look forward to charting a path forward for the Pac-12 that is in the best interest of the Conference and student-athletes. Our intentions are to make reasonable business decisions going forward while continuing to seek collaboration and consultation with the departing universities.”

The schools departing the Pac-12 — Washington, Oregon, Cal, Stanford, Arizona State, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Southern California and UCLA — responded in a statement: “We are disappointed with the decision and are immediately seeking review in the Washington Supreme Court and requesting to put on hold implementation of this decision. As members of the Pac-12, participating in ongoing and scheduled competitions, we are members of the board under the Pac-12 bylaws.

“We have the right to the revenue earned by our schools during the 2023-2024 academic year, which is necessary in order to operate our athletics programs and to provide mental and physical health services, academic support, and other support programs for our student-athletes.”

According to CBS Sports, Oregon State and Washington State plan to compete as a two-team football league next year, though the two schools have contacted representatives of the Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt Conference, American Athletic Conference, Conference USA and Mid-American Conference as they seek games for 2024.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix (10) drops back to pass against the Utah Utes during the first half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports

Conference championship futures: No-brainer bets for Big Ten, Pac-12

The calendar has flipped to November, and it’s time to call our shots on the relative betting value featuring conference championships.

We have our top choices for three conference title-game winners, including what we believe is a Big Ten no-brainer.

CONFERENCE FUTURE BET NO. 1: The American Athletic Conference

Two schools, Tulane (ranked 24th in the first College Football Playoff rankings) and SMU, have led the AAC this season and are ranked among the top 50 college teams on the Action Network’s betting power rankings.

The seemingly inseparable pair are on a collision course to meet in the conference championship game, to be held Dec. 2 at the site of the regular-season champ.

SMU (6-2, 4-0 AAC) looks to exit the conference in style. The Mustangs will join the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

Tulane (7-1, 4-0) won last season’s championship game over UCF and defeated Southern California 46-45 in the Cotton Bowl.

Can anyone stop the Green Wave? We believe SMU has the capability to do so.

The Mustangs have scored 189 points and surrendered only 36 through four AAC games. And they’re not the favorites to win the conference.

Tulane (+150 BetMGM) is the current betting choice. And there wasn’t a better story down the stretch of last season.

These teams are not scheduled to meet during the regular season, but the likely matchup in the title game could well be worth the wait.

The value, however, lies with SMU at +170.

The bet: SMU +170 to win the AAC title game.

CONFERENCE FUTURES BET NO. 2: The Pac-12 Conference

Oregon lost 36-33 to Washington in Seattle, but the Ducks are playing like the conference’s best team right now.

The Huskies struggled to beat Arizona State and Stanford, while the Ducks crushed Utah last week.

Oregon finishes its regular-season schedule with three of four games at home, beginning with Cal on Saturday in Eugene, Ore.

Oregon, the College Football Playoff committee’s No. 6 team, sits behind No. 5 Washington because of that Oct. 14 loss. But momentum is running rampant after the Ducks (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12) trounced the Utes 35-6 last weekend in Salt Lake City. Utah had won 18 straight home games.

Although Oregon, ranked No. 3 on the Action Network power rankings behind only Georgia and Michigan, is the betting favorite to take the conference title game, the number (+110 at FanDuel and BetMGM) is a value.

The Ducks should be the betting favorite in the championship game in Las Vegas, so the current plus-money would be a nice price to be carrying on Dec. 2.

The bet: Oregon +110 to win the Pac-12 title game.

CONFERENCE FUTURES BET NO. 3: The Big Ten Conference

This will be short and sweet.

There are two schools that can win the Big Ten title, but only one will play in the conference championship game.

Barring an upset Nov. 11 in Happy Valley against Penn State, Michigan needs only to defeat Ohio State in Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 25 to clinch a spot in the title game.

And that championship matchup would likely come against one of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin or Nebraska, teams currently sharing the West Division lead with 3-2 records in the conference.

Expect a line such as Michigan by 28 or so.

Despite distractions from the sign-stealing controversy at Michigan, coach Jim Harbaugh has succeeded in convincing his team to focus its attention to the on-field product.

“I think our depth and the health of the team is pretty high right now,” he said. “Couldn’t ask for much better going into this stretch in November.”

The Wolverines, who have a matchup with Purdue on Saturday, boast plenty of offensive talent to go with a shut-down defense.

Quarterback J.J. McCarthy and running back Blake Corum are elite. McCarthy, No. 2 in current Heisman Trophy betting (Washington’s Michael Penix is first), passed for a season-high 287 yards and four touchdowns in Michigan’s 49-0 pummeling of in-state rival Michigan State on Oct. 21.

The defense has allowed 47 points through eight games — pure dominance.

The Buckeyes are terrific, but aren’t likely to be favored in Ann Arbor.

Michigan’s number (-105 at FanDuel) will not be so attractive after Nov. 11, assuming a Wolverines victory over Penn State. Grab this virtual even-money bet.

The bet: Michigan -105 to win the Big Ten title game.

–Field Level Media

Jul 21, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; The Pac-12 Conference logo during Pac-12 Media Day at Resorts World Las Vegas. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Washington comes to Pac-12’s defense in lawsuit

A month after Oregon State and Washington State filed a legal complaint against the Pac-12 with the aim of solidifying their position as voting members of the collapsing conference, the University of Washington on Monday filed a motion to join the lawsuit, multiple outlets reported.

Washington’s intent is to become a party to the suit, then file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Neither Washington nor any of the other nine universities that have announced their intent to leave the conference can currently file such a motion as none are a party to the suit.

“UW has a significant stake in opposing WSU and OSU’s claims and preventing the Court from granting the relief requested,” Washington reportedly stated in the filing. “True, UW is leaving the Conference after the 2023-24 academic year. But, in the meantime, UW remains a member of the Conference, and board participation and voting power affects the experience of UW’s athletics teams and student-athletes for the 2023-24 academic year as well as UW’s bargained-for contractual rights and financial interest.”

The other nine schools planning to leave the conference at the end of the academic year reportedly filed a brief in support of Washington’s motion.

Shortly after Oregon State and Washington State’s initial complaint, a judge granted the universities a temporary restraining order and scheduled a Nov. 14 hearing for a preliminary injunction. That hearing could likely determine who would hold voting rights on the Pac-12 board.

Both the initial complaint and Monday’s filing were made in Whitman County (Washington) Superior Court, where Washington State is located.

Among the issues at hand in the suit is distribution of the conference’s assets.

If the conference is disbanded permanently, assets from the Pac-12 Network, the College Football Playoff in January, the men’s basketball tournament at Las Vegas in March and the Pac-12 brand itself all come into question.

There has been no decision on whether the Pac-12 will cease to exist or if Washington State and Oregon State will remain in a conference that will need to be reconstructed.

–Field Level Media