Pac-12 legal fight: In sworn statement in Comcast case, Kliavkoff admitted USC and UCLA had been removed from Pac-12 board

The revelation is potentially significant in the lawsuit brought by WSU and OSU

Commissioner George Kliavkoff stated in a court filing last month in the fight for control of the Pac-12 that he had no opinion on the composition of the conference’s governing board. Whether board seats should be limited to the two remaining schools, Washington State and Oregon State, or available to the ten outgoing members as well, Kliavkoff stated in his court declaration.

But that’s not what he said this summer in another legal squabble.

Kliavkoff issued a sworn statement to San Francisco Superior Court weeks before the Pac-12’s demise, stating that UCLA and USC had already relinquished their board positions after announcing their intention to join the Big Ten.

The statement, discovered by the Hotline on Wednesday evening, is one of dozens of filings in a lawsuit brought by two former Pac-12 executives who were fired for their roles in the Comcast overpayment scandal.

Kliavkoff states his job title and responsibilities in the first section of his declaration to the court, which was filed on July 12:

“I am the Commissioner for Defendant Pac-12 Conference, which I have held since July 1, 2021.” I report to the Pac-12 Conference Board of Directors, which is made up of each member institution’s Chancellor or President.”

The following annotation appears after the second sentence:

“The University of California, Los Angeles, and University of Southern California, are no longer among the member institutions represented on the Board of Directors.”

The declaration is nine pages long and concludes, “I declare under penalty of perjury, pursuant to the laws of the United States of America and the State of California, that the foregoing is true and correct.”

Kliavkoff has signed it.

According to a source, the development could be “significant” in the lawsuit filed by Washington State and Oregon State against the conference for control of the governing board.

It shows Kliavkoff admitting under penalty of perjury that announced departures to other conferences result in removal from the Pac-12 board, which is exactly what Washington State and Oregon State are arguing in their lawsuit.

The two schools left out of the realignment game claim the ten outgoing members gave “notice of withdrawal” when they announced their moves to new leagues, as defined by conference bylaws.

As a result, the Cougars and Beavers believe they should be the only members of the board who remain. The Pac-12 lawsuit, filed on September 11, seeks judicial clarification on the matter.

The stakes are extremely high. If Washington State and Oregon State control the Pac-12’s assets, including NCAA Tournament revenue worth tens of millions of dollars over time, they control the Pac-12’s assets.

After the ten universities leave next summer, the money could be used to fund their athletic departments or to rebuild the conference (with Mountain West teams).

A temporary restraining order issued on September 11 by Whitman County (Washington) judge Gary Libey prevents the Pac-12 board from meeting until the composition of the governing body is determined. Libey has scheduled a hearing in the case for November 14.

Furthermore, the two parties (the ‘Pac-2’ and the ‘Pac-10’) agreed to enter mediation and began discussions earlier this month.

Kliavkoff’s sworn statement in the Comcast case was made in mid-July, two weeks before Colorado announced its departure for the Big 12 and three weeks before five additional schools agreed to leave.

USC president Carol Folt and UCLA chancellor Gene Block had both been removed from the board of directors by that point. After the Los Angeles schools accepted Big Ten invitations, the Pac-12 took that significant step in the summer of 2022.

On July 27, after chancellor Phil DiStefano informed Kliavkoff via text message that the Buffaloes would be joining the Big 12, the conference followed the same policy.

The following day, Pac-12 general counsel Scott Petersmeyer wrote to Colorado’s legal officer, including the following:

“On July 27, 2023, Chancellor DiStefano gave Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff written notice of CU’s withdrawal.” According to Section CB 2-3 of the Pac-12’s Constitution and Bylaws, Chancellor DiStefano’s and CU’s representation on the Pac-12’s Board of Directors terminates immediately, and CU no longer has the right to vote on any matter before the Board.”

A week later, Oregon and Washington joined the Big Ten, while Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah joined the Big 12, and the conference folded. Stanford, California, Washington State, and Oregon State were the only remaining teams.

The Bay Area schools accepted ACC invitations in early September, leaving only the Beavers and Cougars.

Kliavkoff then attempted to convene a meeting of all presidents and chancellors, including those representing USC and UCLA, despite his sworn statement two months earlier that the Los Angeles school had been removed from the board.

Washington State president Kirk Schulz and Oregon State president Jayathi Murthy both denied that outbound schools retained board seats.

They claimed that the outbound 10’s public announcements of new conference affiliations constituted a “notice of withdrawal” that resulted in removal from the board.

Kliavkoff, however, rejected the conclusion that the 10 schools had relinquished their board positions in a letter to Schulz and Murthy before they filed the Sept. 11 lawsuit:

“Your assertion that ten of the Conference’s twelve members have ‘withdrawn’ from the Conference in accordance with the Bylaws is incorrect. No member school has expressed or attempted to withdraw from Conference play prior to the end of the current fiscal year on July 31, 2024, or to reclaim and exploit their media rights.

“We simply cannot accept the suggestion that only two members. — Oregon State University (OSU) and Washington State University (WSU) — now have the right to determine by themselves all issues affecting the Conference, and determine the course of all revenue coming into the Conference, to the exclusion of the other ten member schools.”

Three days later, the Beavers and Cougars filed a lawsuit.

Kliavkoff stated in his declaration to the Whitman County Court:

“Neither the Conference nor I have an opinion on the appropriate composition of the Pac-12 Board.” This is essentially a disagreement among members.”

That statement appears to stake out a different position on board makeup than Kliavkoff offered under penalty of perjury in July.

The lawsuit in the Comcast case is still ongoing, brought by former Pac-12 CFO Brent Willman and former Pac-12 Networks president Mark Shuken.

Kliavkoff and the Pac-12 declined to comment.

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