Washington State head coach Jake Dickert walks along the sideline during the second half of a game against California on Oct. 1, 2022, in Pullman. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Washington State head coach Jake Dickert walks along the sideline during the second half of a game against California on Oct. 1, 2022, in Pullman. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

WSU disappointed but ‘will find its way’ after UW’s Pac-12 departure

The options remain unclear for Washington State after Friday’s developments.

By Greg Woods / The Spokesman-Review

PULLMAN — Around the college football ecosystem, Washington State’s future has never looked so murky.

That became clear on Friday morning when, as the Cougars held their third practice of fall camp, news broke that Washington and Oregon had agreed to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten, putting the Pac-12’s outlook in serious jeopardy.

In the Cougars’ orbit, that raised several questions: What happens to Washington State, potentially one of the few schools left behind by the Pac-12? What happens to the Apple Cup? Does Wazzu have any interest from other power conferences?

A lot remains unknown for WSU. What’s certain is this: The Cougars aren’t giant fans of these developments.

“Obviously, I didn’t have any awareness. My focus is here with this team,” Washington State head coach Jake Dickert said. “When you really look back, and I said it yesterday, the Pac-12 was comprised of 12 amazing state institutions. High academic institutions. Great, tremendous, athletic institutions — for a long time.

“I woke up as a kid and the Rose Bowl was Big Ten/Pac-12 — Pac-10 back then. That was a big deal. Traveling across the country, you look at the NFL, they’ve got tons of research on how hard that is. And that’s for professional athletes. For student athletes, the guys have gotta come back and take an exam and miss class. I think it’s tremendously difficult.

“I think it hits home. I talked about rivalries yesterday, I mean, to think it’s the end of the Apple Cup, to think it’s the end of the Civil War — I don’t even know if they can call it that anymore. But at the end of the day, what’s it worth? I understand business. I understand change. Everyone’s gotta change, and we’ve gotta adapt. And Wazzu will find its way. We have for 100 some years, and we will again.

“I’m not privy to the information. I think in uncertain times, I think the biggest thing that I want to do is double down on the now. I wanna double down on this team. Our coaching staff, these players, we’ve poured everything we possibly have into these guys.

“I mean, sometimes I start camp and I’m exhausted, because in summer, I wanted to be around these guys. I wanna give them every ounce of everything that I possibly can have. No news, no uncertainty is gonna possibly change that. So I’m doubling down on right now. And I’m excited about this team. I think we’ve quietly built a really strong team, and I think we’re building something special. We’ll continue to do that.”

Dickert made similar comments after Thursday’s practice, saying among other things, “We’ll look back at college football in 20 years and be like, ‘What are we doing? What are we doing?’ Let’s let our guys stay regional.”

On Friday afternoon, Washington State president Kirk Schulz and athletic director Pat Chun, neither of whom WSU made available for interviews, released the following statement:

“We are disappointed with the recent decisions by some of our Pac-12 peers. While we had hoped that our membership would remain together, this outcome was always a possibility, and we have been working diligently to determine what is next for Washington State Athletics. We’ve prepared for numerous scenarios, including our current situation. With exceptional student-athletes, a strong Cougar tradition and incredible support from our fans, donors and alumni, we will chart the best path forward together.”

Meanwhile, Wazzu players didn’t share as strong of opinions.

Cougar defensive back Jaden Hicks and wide receiver Lincoln Victor both voiced something to the same effect: We’re focused on the team, not conference realignment.

“I didn’t really know about that,” Hicks said of the news. “But we’re focused on camp. I’m focused on camp. I’m not really focused on what’s in the future or next season. So we’re focused on now.”

“I try to focus on what we are here now, be where my feet are,” Victor added. “There’s a lot of decision-making that goes into that. That’s out of my control. But all I know is that (Oregon and Washington) are still in our league this year, and once we get to those weeks, I’ll be ready to go.”

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