Pac-12 lawsuit: New court ruling keeps conference frozen as WSU, OSU seek full control

An emergency stay could remain in place until Dec. 12, if not later

The Washington Supreme Court granted an emergency stay in the Pac-12’s ongoing legal battle on Tuesday, postponing attempts by Washington State and Oregon State to take control of the conference’s governing board even further.

However, the decision was issued by the Supreme Court’s commissioner, not the justices. As a result, WSU and OSU intend to appeal directly to the judges, requesting that the stay be lifted in order for a critical preliminary injunction to take effect.

That injunction, granted by a lower court last month, gave WSU and OSU control of the Pac-12 board as well as financial assets critical to the schools left behind in the realignment game.

The court commissioner’s ruling also established a deadline of December 12 for all motions in the case. At that point, or shortly thereafter, the Supreme Court judges will decide whether to hear the case or refer it to an appellate court for review.

In other words, the plaintiffs (the remaining ‘Pac-2’ schools) and defendants (the outbound ‘Pac-10’ schools) are facing a barrage of motions and stays before they even know if the high court will consider overturning the preliminary injunction.

Following the ruling on Tuesday, the defendants issued the following statement:

“We are pleased that the Washington Supreme Court has stayed the preliminary injunction that would have given Oregon State and Washington State sole control of the Pac-12 Conference.” While the Court considers our arguments, the decision effectively ensures that all 12 current members will have an equal voice in determining how the revenue our schools earned this year is distributed and utilized…

“The combined earnings of 12 schools during the 2023-2024 academic year should not be unilaterally governed by just two institutions while we all remain members of the Conference.”

Naturally, Cougars and Beavers were dissatisfied with the news:

“We are disappointed by the Washington Supreme Court Commissioner’s decision to grant the departing schools veto power over Pac-12 board matters while they appeal the superior court’s well-reasoned decision to grant Oregon State and Washington State’s request to govern as the Pac-12’s sole remaining members…

“The lawsuit is still pending, and this was a motion for interim relief pending appeal.” OSU and WSU will petition the courts to overturn the Commissioner’s decision.”

If you’re having trouble keeping up, here’s a rundown:

— In September, WSU and OSU sued the conference, seeking a preliminary injunction that would make the two schools the only remaining Pac-12 board members.

The presiding judge, Gary Libey of Whitman County (Washington) Superior Court, issued a temporary restraining order, effectively halting Pac-12 board business.

— On November 14, Libey signed the preliminary injunction making WSU and OSU the sole members of the board.

The next day, Washington (on behalf of the other nine departing schools) petitioned the state Supreme Court for a stay of the preliminary injunction.

The stay will remain in effect until the plaintiff’s pending request for the judges to intervene is granted, according to the commissioner’s ruling on Tuesday.

Plaintiffs and defendants have until December 12 to file all motions for the review portion.

It’s anyone’s guess what happens next.

The court could rule in favor of the defendants and review the case. Alternatively, it could rule in favor of the plaintiffs, reject the review, and refer the case to an appellate court.

The Supreme Court is in Olympia, about an hour’s drive from the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. The appellate court would most likely be in Spokane, about an hour from WSU’s Pullman campus.

Meanwhile, the Pac-12 board can only govern by unanimous consent, allowing WSU and OSU to block decisions that are detrimental to their cause.

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