The ‘Pac-2’ moved closer to full control of the Pac-12’s revenue and assets
Washington State and Oregon State took control of the Pac-12’s governing board and the power of the purse on Tuesday, at least for the time being.
Whitman County (Wash.) Superior Court Judge Gary Libey granted the schools’ request for a preliminary injunction after a two-and-a-half-hour hearing, confirming that they are the only remaining voting members of the shattered conference.
The Pac-12, as it is known, “will be governed by the two universities that have not submitted their notices of intent to withdraw,” Libey said in a press release.
However, Libey postponed his decision until the end of the week because the defendant, Washington (on behalf of all ten departing members), intends to appeal to the Washington Supreme Court in Olympia.
However, the ruling issued Tuesday evening clears the way for WSU and OSU to control more than $400 million in revenue for the current fiscal year, as well as any long-term assets the conference retains after the departure of ten schools next summer.
“We are pleased with the court’s common-sense decision today,” said WSU president Kirk Schulz and athletic director Pat Chun in a joint statement. “We have always believed that the Pac-12’s future should be determined by the remaining members, not by the schools leaving the conference.”
“This position is consistent with the action the Pac-12 Board of Directors took when the first two schools (USC and UCLA) announced their departure from the conference more than a year ago.”
While ruling in favor of the Cougars and Beavers, Libey attempted to ensure that the contentious situation is handled fairly, possibly implying that some of the 2023-24 revenue should be distributed to the outbound schools.
“This is not a shutout” in WSU and OSU’s favor, Libey added. “The (preliminary injunction) will be modified to ensure that the other ten are still treated fairly… Nobody will take advantage of someone else.”
Libey included a provision requiring the 10 outbound schools to be notified of board meetings and allowed to participate — but not vote.
The ten leaving schools issued the following statement:
“We are disappointed with the decision and will immediately seek review in the Washington Supreme Court, requesting that the decision be put on hold.” We are members of the Pac-12 board because we participate in ongoing and scheduled competitions as Pac-12 members.
“We have the right to the revenue earned by our schools during the 2023-2024 academic year, which is necessary in order to operate our athletics programs and to provide mental and physical health services, academic support, and other support programs for our student-athletes.”
It’s unclear how the Cougars and Beavers intend to distribute and manage the revenue and assets, which could total more than $100 million from the NCAA Tournament and Rose Bowl. After all, the two schools left out of the realignment game were unable to plan for their future while awaiting the outcome of their injunction motion.
In 2024-25, one option is to compete as a two-team conference. The funds could be used to piece together schedules and dangle in front of Mountain West Conference expansion candidates.
“Our intentions going forward are to make reasonable business decisions while continuing to seek collaboration and consultation with the departing universities,” said OSU president Jayathi Murthy and athletic director Scott Barnes in a statement.
Libey’s decision came as no surprise, given that the preponderance of real-world evidence favored the plaintiffs.
Attorneys for WSU and OSU argued that when the ten outbound schools agreed to join other conferences, they relinquished their board positions, citing the Pac-12 bylaws’ “notice of withdrawal” section.
They cited the Pac-12’s treatment of USC and UCLA beginning last summer, after the schools announced their intentions to join the Big Ten: The Pac-12’s governing board was promptly removed from USC’s president and UCLA’s chancellor, as commissioner George Kliavkoff stated in multiple subsequent court declarations.
The attorneys for Washington argued that the departing schools had not given notice of withdrawal and thus should remain on the board. Their case was based on an interpretation of the bylaws’ “delivery of notice” provision.
Libey was not convinced.
“I grew up in a world where actions spoke louder than words,” he said, referring to the Los Angeles school board members losing their seats.
In his ruling, Libey stated that the conference may continue to conduct business as usual until the stay is lifted.