Does a promotion-relegation model work to keep the Pac-12 alive?
The GIST: Speaking of conference realignment, the Pac-12 is still reeling after nearly all of its members jumped ship. That leaves the last-standing pair, Washington State and Oregon State, working together on creative solutions to save the 108-year-old conference. The most compelling possibility? A first-of-its-kind promotion-relegation model.
How it would work: Plagiarizing European soccer, the Pac-12 would partner with the Group of Five’s Mountain West Conference (MWC), with 16 teams split equally between the pair. They would operate under one football commissioner, similar to how some conferences are split into divisions.
- At the end of each season, the two worst-performing Pac-12 football teams would be relegated (aka demoted) to the less-prestigious MWC, while the MWC’s top two squads would level up into the Pac-12. Fascinating.
The pros: Other than keeping the Pac-12 alive? This revolutionary model would intensify regular-season play, as records could make or break a team’s divisional affiliation. Plus, those season-ending promotion and relegation games would be spicy AF. Who doesn’t love raising the stakes?
- The model would also improve scheduling and load management — teams would have only seven conference foes each season, easing the stress other mega-conferences are already feeling.
The cons: Shifting to the proposed eight members in each division would be tricky. The MWC would have to decide which six of its 12 current members would join Washington State and Oregon State in the new Pac-12, plus it would have to add two replacement schools for its own eight-member roster. That process could be messier than a Real Housewives reunion.
- Most importantly, it’s unclear whether non-football sports would maintain a traditional conference model or join the promotion-relegation party.
- While schools field teams in various conferences all the time, the resulting swings in attention and media money could have big revenue, recruitment, and retention impacts. Watch this space.