A state judge in Washington sided with Oregon State and Washington State in granting a temporary restraining order on Monday to cancel a Pac-12 Conference board meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
The two schools, who will be the last remaining conference members after the 2023-24 academic year, had filed a legal complaint Friday to solidify their roles as the only voting board members in, among other things, the distribution of the conference’s assets.
Whitman County (Washington) Superior Court Judge Gary Libey granted the order that prevents the Pac-12 from meeting or attempting to meet until more court proceedings take place. A preliminary injunction hearing, which has not yet been scheduled, could determine the voting members of the conference’s board of directors.
“Today’s ruling is an important first step to bring clarity and fairness to Pac-12 governance,” said Drew Tulumello, counsel to Washington State and its president, Kirk Schulz. “The future of the Pac-12 should be controlled by the schools who stay, not those who go.”
According to the Pac-12 bylaws, any institution that withdraws from the conference prior to Aug. 1, 2024, is no longer allowed to be a member on the board of directors. That would prevent such institutions from voting on matters of importance within the conference.
Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff had scheduled the meeting where board members from all 12 schools were invited, including the 10 that are set to depart. The exodus began in June 2022 when Southern California and UCLA elected to depart to the Big Ten Conference starting with the 2024-25 school year.
When USC and UCLA left, neither institution was able to take a seat on the board of directors. When Colorado announced a move in July to the Big 12, the school also was not allowed to participate in board meetings. Since then, seven more schools have elected to depart.
If the conference is disbanded permanently, assets from the Pac-12 Network, the College Football Playoff in January, the men’s basketball tournament at Las Vegas in March and the Pac-12 brand itself all come into question.
There has been no decision on whether the Pac-12 will cease to exist, or if Washington State and Oregon State will remain in a conference that will need to be reconstructed.
The Pac-12’s attorney at the hearing, Mark Lambert, argued for the meeting to be held to conduct league business, according to an ESPN report. Lambert said the league has nearly 200 employees and is working to “keep its lights” on and keep “critical employees in place.”
Kliavkoff, who was not at the hearing, is in a difficult situation to keep the conference operating smoothly, Lambert said, according to ESPN’s report.
Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah are leaving the Pac-12 for the Big 12, while Stanford and Cal are joining the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Oregon and Washington are heading to the Big Ten.
Oregon State and Washington State could remain and be joined by other universities in the newly formed league, become independents or eventually become part of another conference such as the Mountain West.
–Field Level Media