Pac-12 Update from President Murthy and Vice President Barnes

Sept. 26, 2023

Dear Beaver Nation,

We have been energized by your passion and determination over the past several weeks. You have raised your voices in support of Oregon State, and we have heard you.

Today we write to remind you of the university’s guiding principles as we work through the conference realignment that was unleashed in August and to tell you about the very direct and immediate impact that the decisions made by 10 college presidents in Oregon, Colorado, California, Arizona, Utah and Washington will have on Oregon State University, our student-athletes and our community.

Our priority continues to be providing the opportunity for OSU student-athletes to thrive in achieving their athletic and academic goals. This includes:

  • Prioritizing the holistic development and well-being of student-athletes, including their ability to compete at the highest level possible.
  • Providing the best experience for alumni and fans to inspire engagement across all sports.
  • Creating visibility for OSU nationally and globally.
  • Ensuring appropriate financial resources for OSU Athletics programs and support for student-athletes.

We continue to believe that the Pac-12 Conference can be a source of strength, and that OSU and Washington State University, as the two remaining original members, should lead the effort to chart its future. It will take some time, however, and it won’t be without some notable changes.

We want to be transparent about the financial reality we face while recognizing that we are in a situation no other universities have experienced before. Our estimates are based on the best information we have available, including a comparison between the media rights revenue and overall revenue streams of a typical Power 5 conference school (like one in the Pac-12) and a Group 5 conference school.

Looking ahead to fiscal year 2025, we expect that total revenue to OSU Athletics could decline by as much as 44 percent. That means we’ll need significant new revenue from public, philanthropic or other sources to support our student-athletes and maintain a competitive athletics program, which currently includes 562 student athletes in 17 men’s and women’s sports. Be assured OSU is committed to pursuing every available avenue to filling the gap.

Most importantly, we must prioritize and seek funds for our $10.4M annual institutional commitment toward athletic scholarships that benefit students from across Oregon and beyond. Student-athlete scholarships have historically been covered by a portion of the Pac-12 Conference revenue distribution, which includes earnings from media rights. Providing access to the highest quality higher education is fundamental to our mission as a public university, and we have a moral obligation to continue supporting these students, many of whom are attending college because of these scholarships.

We are also still emerging from the enormous strains that COVID-19 placed on every part of the university, particularly OSU Athletics. In compliance with lockdown measures, there were no fans in the stands during the height of the pandemic, so OSU advanced its athletics department $31.8M to sustain operations with the expectation that it would be repaid over time based on historic revenues. Now we must figure out a way to repay that debt, which should not be borne by tuition-paying OSU students.

In addition to OSU’s direct losses, there will be significant negative financial impact on businesses in Corvallis, Albany, and Lebanon, and Benton and Linn counties and surrounding areas, which have greatly benefited from fans and visitors drawn to Pac-12 play. In Corvallis alone, early estimates show millions of dollars in potential lost revenue to the local travel and hospitality industry – not to mention the lost tax revenue to the city and county.

This Thursday we will share this reality with the Oregon Legislature in a public hearing of the House Higher Education Committee. Among our elected representatives, we have supporters who may help by providing funding to sustain the strength of our athletics program and the support we provide to student-athletes and local economies. As Oregon’s statewide university, we serve more students and communities in Oregon than any other university. We’re proud of this, and we hope you will join us in making your voice heard and telling your representatives that we need their support. Our students and our state deserve nothing less.

Jayathi Murthy

Scott Barnes
Vice President and Athletics Director