Washington Judge Rules Washington St & Oregon St Recieve Full Control of the PAC12; Conference on Life-Support But Heart Still Beating

Published by: Bear Acuda

In a significant ruling from a state court in Washington, Oregon State and Washington State were granted exclusive control over the Pac-12 board of directors. This decision was issued by Judge Gary Libey during a preliminary injunction hearing in Whitman County Court.

Judge Libey postponed the implementation of this decision until Monday, a move that neither Oregon State University (OSU) nor Washington State University (WSU) opposed.

Following this, attorneys representing the University of Washington, acting on behalf of the 10 schools planning to leave the Pac-12, submitted an urgent request to the Washington Supreme Court. This request sought to prolong the stay past the set Monday deadline, with a decision hoped for by the end of business on Friday, in advance of a formal appeal.

This ruling comes two months after Judge Libey issued a temporary restraining order, as requested by OSU and WSU, which barred Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff from convening any board meetings of the conference.

“I grew up where conduct spoke louder than words. That’s how my parents treated me, and that’s how I treated my children when they were growing up. With that in mind, this court finds in favor that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their interpretation of the bylaws.”

-Judge Gary Libey

Pac12

The hearing, held in a courthouse near WSU’s campus in Pullman, saw presentations from three groups: OSU/WSU, the Pac-12, and the University of Washington, representing the nine other departing schools (Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC, and Utah).

In their argument, OSU and WSU maintained that according to the conference bylaws, schools forfeit their board seats upon announcing their move to other conferences. This was the case when UCLA and USC joined the Big Ten, and again when Colorado moved to the Big 12. However, they argued, the remaining schools changed their interpretation of the bylaws only after seven more schools announced their departures, claiming that all 12 should retain board seats.

“There isn’t a single document that’s been produced which shows that the University of Washington thought that this was the correct position until it provided its notice of withdrawal and now the shoe was on the other foot. But parties are not allowed to just blatantly flip-flop on the meaning of contractual provisions just so they can have their cake and eat it too.”

-Lawyer Eric MacMichael, Representation for OSU/WSU

The Pac-12, striving for impartiality, advocated for maintaining the conditions of the temporary restraining order, which demanded unanimous agreement for any major decision. The conference’s attorney, Mark Lambert, presented a less assertive stance, acknowledging the future of the conference largely depends on OSU and WSU’s decisions.

The departing schools urged Judge Libey to rule against OSU and WSU, which would have allowed them to govern the conference with a 10-2 majority.

“Frankly, that is up to Oregon State and Washington State at this point, and the conference and the commissioner are sensitive to those issues and also sensitive to the notion that without a board that makes things difficult.”

-Mark Lambert, PAC12 Conference Attorney

Pac12

Central to this dispute is the distribution of forthcoming revenue. The exiting schools voiced concerns that OSU and WSU might withhold revenue meant for distribution this academic year. They also argued that the possibility of OSU and WSU voting to dissolve the conference and evenly distribute assets was irrelevant, as they believed such a process could be executed without board involvement.

“It’s simply the fact that the members could decide to dissolve that if they wanted. Of course, in all this time during these proceedings and before, no member has called for such a vote.”

-Dan Levin, UW Attorney

WSU President Kirk Schulz and Athletic Director Pat Chun praised the court’s decision, emphasizing that the future of the Pac-12 should be in the hands of its remaining members, not those departing. This stance aligns with actions taken by the Pac-12 Board when the first two schools announced their departure over a year ago.

OSU President Jayathi Murthy and Athletic Director Scott Barnes shared similar views, supporting the court’s decision.

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