Apple Cup, other UW football traditions at stake in conference discussions

Aug 3, 2023, 2:30 PM | Updated: 3:48 pm

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Could the Apple Cup become a thing of the past? (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)

(Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)

If the Pac-12 crumbles and University of Washington athletics move to the Big Ten Conference, big football traditions, including the Apple Cup, could be at stake.

“Let’s watch the next 24 hours to 36 hours,” Seattle Sports morning host Brock Huard said. “There is a lot at stake for a lot of institutions.”

The UW Board of Regents are meeting tonight (Thursday) and many believe they will decide on the fate of the athletic program.

The expected moves would put UW and WSU in different conferences.

Huard said that the changes could mean an end to the Apple Cup.

“And we’ve seen that happen across the landscape of college football,” Huard explained. “We have seen some of these unbelievable, generational rivalries go away. When you don’t have one acting voice, one acting shield, one acting commissioner, and you have a lot of fiefdoms. And then independent universities looking out for their own best interests. You run into challenges like these.”

Huard said that once USC and UCLA decided to leave the Pac-12, the domino effect began with Colorado leaving with UW and Oregon potentially following suit.

The Pac-12 is hoping to keep its remaining members together with a media rights deal that would make Apple TV the conference’s primary home, ESPN reported Tuesday.

“Think about now Washington State and Oregon State. What happens to them?” Huard pondered. “So lot to be still figured out.”

Huard said the upside for UW is media exposure.

“You’re joining a very large brand of tremendous institutions with a set media deal with FOX, NBC, and CBS. Three different major media Goliaths,” said Huard, a former UW quarterback who now is a color commentator on FOX broadcasts during the college football season. “This could be a deal that’s going to pay those institutions many, many, many, many millions of dollars over many years. And that’s what Oregon and Washington and all of these schools are eventually after, a level of stability.”

Big Ten: Votes to add USC, UCLA as members starting in 2024

Huard explained that stability helps balance the cost associated with student-athletes, new facilities, and other costs.

But, ultimately, Huard explains, “The casual fan, or even the diehard fan, just wants to watch their teams in primetime. And on major networks and have that exposure, they are going to get that opportunity.”

Huard said there is a massive downside: travel.

“It’s one thing for football. Those teams travel five times a year on the road, not a big deal, not a big deal to travel to Ann Arbor, to Columbus, and even to Piscataway, New Jersey, which is where Rutgers University is in the Big Ten,” he said. “But for the basketball teams, the volleyball teams, the track the swimming, think of all of the travel for those student-athletes, you know, it’s not five games a year it is dozens of games a year. And that mounts those costs, the time away mounts, all of those factors do mount and trying to figure that out.”

Huard speculated on what Washington State and Oregon State might do if this all happens.

“Are they going to go to the Mountain West? Are they going to try to sue and keep this thing you know, tied up? Are they going to reach out to [the] state Legislature and reach out to the Governor of Washington?”

WSU and OSU would be most hurt in this scenario, Huard explained. “Those folks in Pullman and Corvallis are in markets that the rest of the country scoffs at but those of us who are in broadcasting know how special they are, how important they are how the fabric of the market. They are like Green Bay and Buffalo are to the NFL. You need them just as much as you need New York and LA.”

The Associated Press reports that while former Commissioner Kevin Warren kept the idea of more Western expansion alive in the Big Ten, a change of leadership seemed to cool down a desire for more growth in the league.

New Commissioner Tony Petitti said during Big Ten football media days that expansion was not a priority.

“The Big Ten Conference is still focused on the integration of USC and UCLA, but it’s also the commissioner’s job to keep chancellors and presidents informed about new developments as they occur,” the Big Ten said in a statement Wednesday.

KIRO Newsradio’s Heather Bosch, Seattle Sports, and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Apple Cup, other UW football traditions at stake in conference discussions