COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 01 PAC-12 Championship Game - Oregon vs Washington
Getty Images

No. 2 Washington is bound for the College Football Playoff National Championship after surviving a 37-31 thriller against No. 3 Texas in the CFP semifinal at the Sugar Bowl, giving the Huskies one last chance to represent the Pac-12 on the gridiron. The Huskies are among 10 Pac-12 teams set to depart for other conferences this summer -- Washington is one of four headed to the Big Ten -- and that looming exodus is still weighing heavy on Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff. 

Asked for his thoughts on Washington's triumph, Kliavkoff, who was in attendance for the clash between the Huskies and Longhorns in New Orleans, didn't hold back from airing his grievances yet again. Although Kliavkoff didn't mention any schools by name, he made clear his frustration with Pac-12 members that defected amid the league's struggle to land a new media rights deal. 

"Its surreal [for Washington]," Kliavkoff said, per 247Sports. "It's upsetting that some of our schools weren't more patient, because if they saw what we were building, it would have paid off."

Although USC and UCLA kicked off the exodus two summers ago when they announced intentions to leave for the Big Ten in 2024, the Pac-12 was still in position to remain viable with 10 continuing members. However, hurdles in securing a new media rights deal -- and a pileup of delayed deadlines in the process -- resulted in eight additional defections ahead of the 2023 college football season. 

Colorado became the third school to defect when it announced a return to the Big 12 in late July. A tipping point then came in early August when Washington and Oregon opted to leave for the Big Ten on the same timeline as USC and UCLA. That move effectively triggered the collapse of the 108-year-old "Conference of Champions." By early September, Oregon State and Washington State were the only ones left standing as continuing Pac-12 members. 

As fate had it, the Pac-12 proved to be arguably the most competitive conference in college football during its last hurrah, now fielding a CFP National Championship participant for the first time since Oregon qualified in the format's 2014 debut. Unsurprisingly, that has Kliavkoff wondering what could have been if the conference had found a way to stay intact. 

"Happy for the kids [at Washington]," Kliavkoff added, per Yahoo! Sports. "They don't deserve all the nonsense going on around them. We were focused on rebuilding football. Took two-and-a-half years. I wish it would have happened quicker." 

Washington will now face No. 1 Michigan on Jan. 8 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, for a battle of college football's final two undefeated teams with all the marbles on the line. For the Pac-12, it could be the ultimate bittersweet ending.