Oregon State and Washington State have reportedly been involved in talks with the Mountain West Conference.

Not to join the MW, but to create a one or two-year scheduling alliance with the Group of Five league while the Cougars and Beavers continue to operate the Pac-2 as a Power Five conference until 2026.

Per Yahoo Sports’ Ross Dellenger, “The two schools (WSU and OSU) are expected to operate as a two-member conference at least for next year (2024-25) and have been in deep discussions with Mountain West officials over a one- or two-year scheduling alliance — a move that could eventually serve as a first step in a long-term partnership or even a merger with the league.

“The scheduling proposals are being socialized among Mountain West administrators, and feedback is expected soon from the conference’s presidents. Multiple officials who have reviewed the scheduling proposals.”

According to Dellenger, there are a few scheduling models that are being discussed, though all are “likely to feature a compensation package and/or a long-term commitment from Oregon State and Washington State to the Mountain West built around the idea of eventual full membership.”

One option is to have Washington State and Oregon State each play eight MW schools next season. Another version has the Cougars and Beavers only playing seven MW opponents. A different model has those games counting toward MW conference records, while another version of the alliance has every WSU-OSU matchup with a MW school being counted as a nonconference bout.

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The benefits of a schedule alliance to the remaining Pac-2 and the MW are easy to see.

For Washington State and Oregon State, there is short-term stability with scheduling while the schools battle their soon-to-be-former conference mates in court over the Pac-12 conference’s assets, which Dellenger reports are worth over $100 million.

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For the Mountain West, games against the Cougars and Beavers represent a step up in competition, a potential advantage when it comes to which Group of Five teams are included in the soon-to-be 12-team College Football Playoff.

Dellenger reported that there is a full 12-game schedule option available for Washington State and Oregon State with the MW if those schools desire, an option that would almost certainly lead to full conference membership.

As Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes told Dellenger, however, OSU and WSU remain of the belief that they are P5 schools and that they shouldn’t lose that status as a result of actions taken by other Pac-12 schools.

“We want fair consideration under a Power Five umbrella, “Barnes told Yahoo Sports. “We want access, and distribution is important. We didn’t put ourselves in this position. We’ll continue to invest at a Power Five level. We have an expectation that we’ll be able to discuss what access and distribution look like while creating our path forward.”

Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward passes the ball against Oregon Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in Eugene, Ore. | Andy Nelson, Associated Press
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