It was bright and sunny the first Friday of August. Maybe it was a sign from above that the University of Washington’s monumental decision that day—leaving the Pac-12 Conference to join the Big Ten beginning in 2024—meant blue skies were ahead for the Huskies.
The decision made headlines for days. After all, the Huskies (who were joined in moving to the Big Ten by the University of Oregon) had been a founding member of what became the Pac-12 more than 108 years ago. But as the college sports landscape has evolved dramatically over the past couple of years, it became clear the Pac-12 fundamentally had changed to the point where it could not meet the UW’s needs.
“The Big Ten is a thriving conference with strong athletic and academic traditions and we are excited and confident about competing at the highest level on a national stage,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce. “My top priority must be to do what is best for our student-athletes and our University, and this move will help ensure a strong future for our athletics program.”
The move by the UW and Oregon to the now 18-member Big Ten conference means there will be four former Pac-12 institutions in the Midwest-based league. Last year, USC and UCLA were the first Pac-12 schools to announce that they were making the move. The UW decided to join the Big Ten because that conference offers a more robust and stable media rights deal as well as the opportunity to compete on a national stage.
“We are proud of our rich history with the Pac-12 and for more than a year, have worked hard to find a viable path that would keep it together,” Cauce explained. “I have tremendous admiration and respect for my Pac-12 colleagues. Ultimately, however, the opportunities and stability offered by the Big Ten are unmatched. Even with this move, we remain committed to the Apple Cup and competing with WSU across all of our sports.”
As of this writing, the Pac-12’s future is uncertain. In addition to Washington and Oregon leaving to join USC and UCLA in the Big Ten, four other Pac-12 schools (Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah) opted to join the Big-12 Conference.
The UW was one of four founding members of what started in December 1915 as the Pacific Coast Conference, which over the years grew to become the Pac-12. Joining the Big Ten means the UW will be a member of the Big Ten’s Academic Alliance. “Our dean of the College of Arts & Sciences (Diana Harris), who participated in it in one of her previous jobs, told me what a great network that is,” Cauce explained.
Added head football coach Kalen DeBoer: “The clarity associated with a stable home [in the Big Ten] really helps. I know that our guys are excited about the future.”
Pictured at top: Tight end Jack Westover hurdles a defender in the Huskies’ 27-20 Alamo Bowl victory over Texas.