By RALPH D. RUSSO – AP College Football Writer
A judge on Tuesday granted Oregon State and Washington State a preliminary injunction in their legal battle with him 10 schools in the Pac-12 event, giving the Pacific Northwest rivals control of the conference and millions of dollars in assets.
With a significant legal hurdle cleared, Oregon State and Washington State could soon decide how they will keep the PAC-12 alive and which schools they will compete with next year.
“We look forward to charting a path forward for the Pac-12 that will benefit the conference and its student-athletes,” Oregon State President Jayathi Murthy and athletic director Scott Barnes said in a statement. “We intend to make reasonable business decisions going forward and continue to seek collaboration and consultation with the departing universities.”
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In a hearing in Whitman County Superior Court, not far from Washington State’s Pullman campus, Judge Gary Libey ruled that Oregon State and Washington State should be the only members making decisions about PAC-12 business.
“Oregon State and Washington State are the sole members of the board,” Libey said, ruling quickly after hearing arguments for about 2 1/2 hours.
The outgoing Pac-12 schools said they will appeal the decision.
“Nothing will change in the Pac-12,” Libey said. “The athletes will still compete. The schools will still be doing business, PAC-12 will still be doing business but it will be controlled by the two universities that have not submitted their withdrawal notice.”
Washington State athletic director Pat Chun and university president Kirk Schulz attended the hearing, along with Barnes.
“We are pleased with the court’s wise decision today,” Chun and Schulz said in a statement.
Oregon State and Washington State took the Pac-12 and Commissioner George Kliavkoff to court in September and he obtained a temporary restraining orderbut the conference was allowed to do business from day to day as long as each of the 12 schools was allowed to make decisions unanimously.
For about a month last summer, eight Pac-12 schools they announced they would be leaving the conference to join another Power Five league, starting next August. Southern California and UCLA announced in 2022 that they would be leaving the Big Ten.
That left only Oregon State and Washington State committed to the long-term Pac-12, and officials at both schools decided the best way forward was to rebuild the conference.
They argue with PAC-12 bylaws that say schools that announce they are waiving the right to be part of the board of directors and have no say in any decisions that could affect the long-term viability of the league .
In court documents, Oregon State and Washington State claim they have reason to fear that the departing schools — if allowed to meet as board members — would vote to dissolve the conference and distribute its assets to the group of 12.
They also say that when USC and UCLA announced they were leaving, they were immediately removed from the board and 24 meetings were held without them.
“Behavior is what matters and words don’t do that much,” Libey said.
Eric MacMichael, an attorney for Oregon State, argued on behalf of the two schools that the members who left had no incentive to invest in the preservation of the conference.
The departing schools argued that conference rules give them the right to participate in the running of the conference until they leave next year.
They claim that Oregon State and Washington State are trying to seize more than $400 million in revenue that the PAC-12 will receive this year, cutting out 10 members that are still competing and adding to the conference.
“We are disappointed by the decision and are seeking immediate review in the Washington Supreme Court and asking that this decision be suspended,” the departing schools said in a joint statement.
Libey said Oregon State and Washington State would have to give notice of any decisions that could affect the departing schools and warned that if they treated the departing members unfairly, they could be looking forward to being back in court.
The clock is ticking for Oregon State and Washington State to make definitive plans for next season.
“We’re trying to explore all options,” MacMichael said. “But we can’t do anything at the moment because we are shacked to 10 people who have no interest in seeing the survival of this conference or move on or even have a future. They just need to get every last dollar they can out of the Pac-12 before they leave and join the Big Ten, the Big 12 or the ACC. So we can’t do anything in this paralyzed state we’re in right now.”
A two-school conference, provisionally approved by the NCAA, is a possibility for Oregon State and Washington State next year. But the two schools cannot compete against each other.
To complete schedules in all sports, the schools have discussed a partnership with the Mountain West, but the details of that alliance still need to be worked out.
The Pac-12 has no media rights agreement beyond this season. Both schools acknowledged that they are facing a significant reduction in revenue as the PAC-12 loses its Power Five status.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football
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