The University of Oregon is still figuring out how life might change for student-athletes when it begins its new contract with the Big Ten athletic conference next year.
UO announced its move to the Big Ten last month, making this year its last as part of the Pac-12 — the West Coast conference the university has been a member of for more than a century. The university is moving to the Big Ten — a conference made up of schools mostly in the Midwest and Northeast. That means going greater distances for league contests and big changes to travel schedules for student-athletes.
At a university board meeting Tuesday, UO Athletic Director Rob Mullens said what UO’s first year with the Big Ten will look like is still “TBD.”
“We don’t have a timeline of exactly when the schedules will be developed for every sport,” Mullens told UO’s board. “But, there are ongoing conversations around ‘How can we solve some of this travel creatively?’”
Mullens said one of the things UO athletics officials are talking about internally is potentially trying to keep nonconference competition closer to home than in years past.
“Our volleyball team already this year has been to Hawaii, and this weekend they’re going to travel to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” Mullens said. “When we join the Big Ten, we might keep our nonconference travel much more regional, because our conference travel will be more out-of-region, so that’s one of the things we can control internally.”
Mullens said the Big Ten is actively talking about strategies to mitigate travel impacts.
UO’s decision to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten was part of a number of shake-ups across college sports. Over the past few years, 10 universities announced their plans to leave the Pac-12, including several in the past few months. The moves have left only Oregon State and Washington State universities still in the league.
“I’m enormously excited … about the future for the University of Oregon and our ability to drive prosperity in the state in no small part through this change in conferences,” UO President Karl Scholz said during Tuesday’s board meeting. “Joining the Big Ten conference will provide us with an even greater platform for leveraging the excellence and brand of Oregon Athletics.”
“At the same time, I have great sympathy for the challenges our peers at Oregon State are navigating. I support and want to see the Beavers be successful.”
Oregon State and Washington State are figuring out next steps forward, whether that might be trying to revive the Pac-12 or coordinating a move to a different conference.
OSU and WSU last week took legal action against the Pac-12, filing a temporary restraining order against the conference to block the departing schools from making any decisions about the conference’s future. A Washington judge agreed with the two universities, granting that restraining order Monday, and canceling a meeting of conference leaders this week.