Oregon and Washington finalized a deal to join the Big Ten beginning in the 2024-25 season on Friday, a move that continues to dwindle the Pac-12 and puts that conference's future in the crosshairs.
The schools formally applied for membership Friday and were accepted after a Big Ten vote later in the day.
"We are excited to welcome the University of Oregon and the University of Washington to the Big Ten Conference," Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti said in a statement. "We look forward to building long-lasting relationships with the universities, administrators and staff, student-athletes, coaches and fans.
"Both institutions feature a combination of academic and athletic excellence that will prove a great fit for our future."
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 is 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 Utah and Arizona State also applied for formal membership in the Big 12 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's and Washington's decisions 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 such as the 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 with 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 stability and exposure of joining the Big Ten is of great benefit to the University of Oregon, and we are grateful to the Big Ten presidents and chancellors for accepting our application to join the conference," Oregon AD Rob Mullens said in a statement. "We look forward to the opportunity for our student-athletes to compete in this conference, which includes many of the best programs in the nation in every sport."
"We have tremendous respect and gratitude for the Pac-12, its treasured history and traditions," Washington AD Jennifer Cohen said in a statement. "At the same time, the college athletics landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. The Big Ten's history of athletic and academic success and long-term stability best positions our teams for future success, and we are energized at the opportunity to compete at the highest level against some of the best programs in the country."
The move makes the Big Ten the first major conference to push to 18 teams and will further the notion of a push toward superconferences. The SEC will make its debut as a 16-team conference with Texas and Oklahoma in 2024, the same year 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.