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Ducks fly in line to Big Ten as sun sets on the Pac-12
Aug. 4, 2023 will be forever known as the Pump and Dump around the state of Oregon.
PORTLAND — Oregonians woke up Friday morning with the ability to legally fill their own gas tanks and went to bed with the Pac-12 and its century of rivalries, traditions and history obliterated.
It was August 4, 2023, a day that’ll forever be known around the Corridor as the Pump and Dump.
It finally happened. The dam broke a year after USC and UCLA first swung the hammer. The Ducks are headed to the Big Ten following the unanimous vote of Oregon’s board of trustees, a meeting that was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and kicked off with comments from board chair Steve Holwerda — who Zoomed into the meeting from a fairway bunker.
“I’m thrilled that the University of Oregon has the opportunity to join the nation's preeminent academic-athletic conference,” UO President Karl Scholz said. “Our student-athletes will participate at the highest level of collegiate athletic competition, and our alumni, friends and fans will be able to carry the spirit of Oregon across the country.”
He wore a tie. So did Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens, who echoed the first-year president’s positivity toward Oregon’s new athletic future.
“We've stayed true to our principles, which is student-athlete experience, connecting with our alumni and fans and competing for championships,” Mullens said, “and this is the opportunity in a rapidly shifting collegiate athletic space to provide that premier conference, both academically and athletically for our Oregon Ducks.”
I’ve tried writing a handful of columns this week making the argument against, shaking my fist at the sky at what’s being lost because of all this. This conference was founded with four teams more than 100 years ago here in Portland at the Imperial Hotel. And after the departures of Colorado, USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Washington and Utah, a conference that once ballooned to 12 members is back down to four.
Damn these TV execs! Screw Larry Scott! Why couldn’t Phil Knight figure a different way for his Ducks and the Pac?
The Ducks are the athletic department of innovation. They’re the national brand. They’re your favorite team’s favorite team. There is no school in the country that prides itself more on zigging the zag. But in only a matter of days, after seeing a long-gestating but ultimately underwhelming media rights deal and the gulf it would have perpetuated between the country’s have and have-not conferences, they apparently saw the wisdom of getting in line.
The Ducks and Huskies are fleeing to the Big Ten for more money, yes, but they’ll 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. Then they’ll be full partners after the next round of negotiations.
Which are sure to go smoothly.
It’s just…disappointing. But again, the Ducks have to go. Oregon is a school that has decided over the last 20 years that its top priority is having one of the best football programs in the country. It is the largest part of the school’s identity, more so than anything it does on the track, basketball court or in the classroom. The pursuit of football success has literally transformed Eugene. And with its mega donor base getting long in the tooth, it wouldn’t be feasible to try and compete against teams pulling in more than double what Pac-12 schools would reportedly have earned through a media-rights agreement centering around streaming on Apple.
There are certainly reasons to get excited. I’m not going to be upset anytime the Ducks play Ohio State, or Michigan, or Penn State. Or how about Oregon basketball at Assembly Hall in Indiana? Surely, there will be times when this will feel like the best thing ever. And there will be times, like now in Corvallis and Pullman, where it feels like it all went to shit.
“It hits home,” Washington State coach Jake Dickert said. “I think it’s the end of the Apple Cup. I think it’s the end of the Civil War…At the end of the day, what’s it worth?”
For what it’s worth, a line at the end of Oregon’s press release announcing the move quotes Mullens saying, “in coming years, the UO will prioritize the long-held traditions, including competition across all sports with Oregon State University.”
But seeing as we haven’t heard from Oregon State yet, we’ll hold out and see whether or not the Beavers still want to be friends after this breakup.
Last month, I sat in Scott Barnes’ office on Oregon State’s campus as the athletic director detailed the final steps of the Beavers’ renovation of Reser Stadium. It’s been a long time coming — nearly 20 years when you consider the rebuild of the stadium’s eastern side — and Barnes cracked quite the grin when recalling one of the best days of his career: He got to press the button to implode Reser’s west side and kickstart the final phase of the $161 million renovation.
I hope those at Oregon are able to look back so fondly on the day they all got to push their button.
— Tyson Alger, The I-5 Corridor
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