UW president: Big Ten move was necessary to deliver ‘stability for our players, for our coaches, for our teams’

By Mike Vorel
Seattle Times staff reporter
Washington and Oregon will officially join the Big Ten Conference in 362 days.
It might take that much time — or decades more — to dissect the far-reaching implications of Friday’s falling dominoes. At 3:10 p.m., the Big Ten welcomed the Huskies and Ducks … before Arizona, Arizona State and Utah jointly bolted for the Big 12 barely three hours later.
With the Pac-12’s most valuable properties effectively pillaged, only Washington State, Oregon State, Stanford and California remain.
Twenty-four hours after the 108-year-old partnership with the Pac-12 was assigned a deadline, UW president Ana Mari Cauce and athletic director Jen Cohen met with media members in a virtual news conference Saturday afternoon.
And, according to Cauce, the Pac-12’s proposed media-rights deal with subscription streaming service Apple+ simply wouldn’t work for Washington.
“In the end, we looked at the deal that we had — the only deal that we had — and it was clear that it was not giving us what we thought,” she said. “It was not the deal we had been discussing just days before, and it was not going to secure [the conference]. When you have a deal where people are saying one of the best aspects of it is that you can get out of it in two years, that tells you a lot. We really needed to have the stability for our players, for our coaches, for our teams.”
According to a source, that deal did not include a linear television component and would have been worth $23 million annually, though subscription incentives might have added to the Huskies’ haul.
“We’re really confident in the agreement we have with the Big Ten and the resources that are going to be provided for us, not just short term but long term,” Cohen said. “We’re not going to get into the details of the financial agreement today, but we are looking forward to sharing that in the very near future.”
Those financial details include a partial share of Big Ten media rights revenue — according to a source — worth $30 million in Year 1 and an additional $1 million each year through the contract’s conclusion in June 2030. The school has the option to borrow up to $10 million per year against future earnings as well, to cover added travel costs and other expenses.
The Huskies will earn a full share of the conference’s next media-rights deal and project that share to be worth two to three times the $30-35 million they’ll receive over the next six years, per a source.
When asked how the Huskies will maneuver through the morass of cross-country travel headaches, Cohen said: “We made this decision in a very deliberate and thoughtful and intentional way. And part of that decision was that we felt very confident in the agreement we had with the Big Ten to have the resources to adapt to the challenges, including travel costs, and additional resources that our student-athletes are going to need to have a successful experience in the Big Ten.”
For Washington, the Big Ten’s current media rights deal with Fox, NBC and CBS — reportedly worth $7 billion over six years, with annual member payouts reaching $65 million to $70 million — offers more than just money.
Cauce valued the conference’s widespread linear reach as well.
“I want to be clear: This was not just about dollars and cents,” Cauce said. “This was about national visibility for our players — being on linear TV so they could be seen, so they could have the national exposure. It was about stability. It was about a contract that didn’t have a ‘two years and you can all split up’ [clause]. It was about having a future that we could count on and build towards.”
Elaborating further on the proposed Pac-12 deal’s pratfalls, Cauce said, “We had expected to have a couple deals to look at, and it didn’t turn out that way.”
She also noted that commissioner George Kliavkoff navigated a “really, really difficult situation” and “worked really hard. I have every reason to believe that offers fell apart because of other factors beyond his control. But in the end, I do think that at least some level of linear TV mattered. We have a history with the Pac-12 Networks that wasn’t a good one.”
Indeed, there is history to consider — including 114 football meetings between in-state rivals Washington and Washington State.
Cauce reiterated Saturday that “I want to make 100% clear, we are fully committed to continuing the Apple Cup against Washington State. There is no question that the Apple Cup is a cherished tradition, and we want to continue our long history with the Cougars, including Apple Cup matchups across all of our sports as part of our nonconference schedule.
When asked if that includes football matchups every other year inside Martin Stadium, Cohen added: “As many of you know, [WSU athletic director Pat Chun] is a dear friend of mine and we’re both really committed to this series and committed to this state and all of our fans, not just for football but for all of our sports. We are still working on the complexities of our football schedule in general for the future years, so Pat and I will continue to work on the best plan to play the Apple Cup every year.”
At this point, the Cougars have bigger, more financially dire fish to fry.
Which is why Cohen called it “one of the most difficult decisions we’ve had to make, because of the relationships and the people that are involved.”
It’s a decision that might doom the Cougars — and Beavers and Cardinal and Golden Bears — to athletic exile, without a path back to prominence. It’s a decision that ignited an avalanche with economic implications from Pullman to Corvallis, Ore. It’s a decision that sacrificed century-old partnerships, in search of stability.
It’s a decision, according to Cauce, that the Huskies had to make.
“I’ve been at this University of Washington for 38 years,” she said. “I understand commitment. I understand loyalty. This was heart-wrenching. But at the end, it is my responsibility to do what I think is right for our university, our student-athletes and our programs, and this was the right decision.”
Washington running back Tybo Rogers has been suspended for a violation of team rules, a team spokesperson confirmed Saturday.
Rogers — a 5-foot-11, 185-pound freshman — impressed this offseason after enrolling early and had positioned himself to push for playing time. UW coach Kalen DeBoer told The Times this summer that “Tybo had a great winter and spring. We’ve got some good running backs, but he brings a little different element, too. So him being ready could be critical.”
But as DeBoer alluded to, running-back depth is not an issue. The Huskies enter the fall with six other scholarship running backs — senior Richard Newton, juniors Cameron Davis, Dillon Johnson and Daniyel Ngata, and sophomores Will Nixon and Sam Adams II. Davis (who led UW with 13 rushing touchdowns in 2022), Johnson (who transferred in from Mississippi State this offseason) and Nixon have split starting carries across the Huskies’ first three preseason practices.

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