As conference reorganization reshapes college football, is the Apple Cup in jeopardy?

LOS ANGELES – Callen Debord and Jake Dickert have more in common than the Apple Cup.

Prior to arriving in Washington this season, DeBoer played a wide receiver at NAIA University of Sioux Falls and climbed the coaching ladder at Washington (SD) High School, Sioux Falls, Southern Illinois, eastern Michigan, Fresno State (twice) and Indiana.

Deckert, similarly, played a wide receiver at Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point, then trained at his alma mater, North Dakota, South Dakota, Southeast Missouri, Augustana, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Before landing at UW and WSU, respectively, DeBoer and Dickert promoted a vehicle one season From the Power Five experience.

So they all understand the gap between the haves of college football and the have-nots.

In addition to what it means for this gap to expand permanently and exponentially.

“Tell our guys, I’ve been selling lottery tickets (for fans) to get into fall camp, just so we can eat,” Deckert said on Friday’s Pac 12 media day at the Nouveau Theater in Los Angeles. “College football is changing, and there are a lot of standards that we need to continue to maintain to preserve what we all love about the traditions and rivalries of college football.”

As the Securities and Exchange Commission and Big Ten companies gradually absorb their competing conventions, those regional rivalries face the prospect of imminent extinction. So, too, is the Pac-12 as a whole — with the USC and UCLA heading to the Big Ten in 2024, the UW and Oregon are eyeing a potential Big Ten invite and Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark publicly broadcasting his conference as “open for business.”

On that note, Pac-12 commissioner George Klyavkov responded Friday, saying, “We haven’t decided whether or not we’ll go shopping (in the Big 12) yet.”

But with the Power Five threatening the potential for internal collapse, and with the UW situation growing, what could happen to the Apple Cup?

“I think playing the Apple Cup is definitely something we need to make sure we do,” said DeBoer, who started fall camp for the first time at UW on August 4. This is what makes college football so special. Having that game and the competitions that we have, whether it’s with Washington State or Oregon… that’s what gets you up early in the mornings in January and February, and ready for those games.

“I certainly hope those (games) stay intact, but I get it. I’ve seen it where those rivalries are more or less lost when changes happen.”

Like, for example, when a conference reorganization skewed regional rivalries between Texas and Texas A&M, or Missouri and Kansas, during the last round of major reorganizations in 2012.

But in the view of WSU sporting director Pat Chun, the Apple Cup is unlikely to suffer the same fate.

“I’m a traditionalist in college football, and all of those traditions are important to the school you live in,” Chun said. “Fortunately for us, as we sit today, the Pac-12 is moving forward. This particular scenario (where the Apple Cup goes away), you don’t have to worry about it.”

Of course, that likely depends on the ongoing Pac-12 negotiations over the upcoming media rights deal — set to begin in 2024. “The fact that we’re in a period where we can actually negotiate puts us at an advantage, because it would remove all ambiguity,” Chun said Friday. Our conference, we obviously have counselors who tell us what our value is, and we’ll actually see it. Based on the information we have, we’re in a good position to stay together in 10 schools.”

Time will tell – perhaps sooner rather than later – whether this eventually proves. But regarding the relationship between UW and WSU, Chun said, “Nothing has changed. They are extraordinary friends and partners. I know (WSU President Kirk Schulz) and (UW President Anna Marie Kaus) are friends and (WSU Director of Sports Jane Cohen) And I are friends and there’s a great deal of respect. We all acknowledge the responsibility we have to our institutions and the state of Washington. Nothing has changed in our relationships, because they’ve been great professional relationships from day one.”

The same can’t be said of the relationship between Pac-12, USC, and UCLA, though Kliavkoff said he will continue rooting for outgoing program athletes “because it’s the right thing to do.”

Regarding the potential for expansion of the Pac-12, Kliavkoff clearly added, “We are very focused, I think uniquely, in thinking about the impact of student-athletes when we add schools. We think about travel and what we will put our student-athletes through if we expand geographically too far. I’m proud of the fact that this part of our standards.”

When it comes to large-scale conference reorganization, the “right thing to do” may eventually rank second only to seismic revenue.

But DeBoer also emphasized the positive elements in a comprehensively changing landscape.

“What you want for a game is that you want the experience to be a private experience for the players,” Debor said. “Right now the resources are through NIL, that’s a positive for our guys. They get more opportunities and experience than the guys got two or three years ago. So that’s a positive. Sometimes, but they get a chance to go to a school and play in a team where their experience can be better, that’s the hope.

“Really going back to the most basic form of coaching, some of these things are positive for the players. Now it’s just about reorganizing the conference to be the next big thing that has to be sorted out. I don’t know what that would be and what it would look like, it’s hard for me to understand yet how it affects That’s on our students, their daily routine, and what their experience looks like.”

In the coming days, months, and years, that should all become clear.

But when that happens, will DeBoer and Dickert still have the Apple Cup jointly?

“Make no mistake about it: the Pac-12 is going to be here for a long time, in those strong conferences, and playing football big,” Deckert said. “So I’m excited about that, and our athletes the opportunities. I know there are challenges, but in Washington State – our players and our people – we’ll adapt and we’ll survive and we’ll keep moving. So college football and the purity of the game will always be there, and we all have to fight to maintain that.”

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