The Superior Court of Washington ruled in favor of Oregon State and Washington State Monday, granting a temporary emergency restraining order against the Pac-12 that will disable the conference from conducting formal board meetings until the court rules further. Judge Gary Libey, however, amended the order to allow the Pac-12 to conduct business regarding urgent matters for the 2023-24 academic year before 10 of its 12 members depart for other conferences next summer.
The hearing and subsequent ruling came less than one week after Oregon State and Washington State, which are the only continuing Pac-12 members beyond the 2023-24 academic year,against the conference and commissioner George Kliavkoff. The complaint seeks to prevent any votes on the Pac-12's future from occurring until legal clarity is obtained on who controls what is left of the conference.
"We are very pleased with the court's decision today. It has always been our view that future of the Pac-12 should be determined by the remaining members, not by those that are leaving the conference," said Washington State president Kirk Schulz in a statement. "This position is consistent with the action the Pac-12 Board of Directors first took when the first two schools [USC and UCLA] announced their departure from the conference more than a year ago.
"We remain firmly committed to exploring all options to protect the interests of our student-athletes, coaches and fans," Schulz continued. "We look forward to the court putting the question of governance to rest so that Washington State University and Oregon State University can make reasonable and necessary decisions regarding the future of the Pac-12 Conference."
Oregon State and Washington State contend, according to Pac-12 bylaws, that the 10 departing schools should no longer be represented among the Pac-12's board of directors by virtue of those schools giving formal notice to exit the conference. The court did not come to a decision Monday on which schools still have voting rights regarding the conference and its assets; however, the ruling prevents a previously scheduled board meeting for Wednesday from being held. Oregon State and Washington State expressed fear of a vote during that meeting that could've potentially dissolved the conference or led to equal divides of assets.
"Ten schools have given notice that they are leaving the Pac‑12 for other conferences," Oregon State and Washington State officials said in a press release on Sept. 8. "According to the Pac‑12 constitution and bylaws, if a member school gives notice of withdrawal, they automatically cease to be a member of the Pac‑12 Board of Directors. Therefore, Oregon State University and Washington State University now constitute the entire membership of the Pac‑12 Board of Directors, according to Oregon State President Jayathi Murthy and Washington State President Kirk Schulz."
The initial departures from the Pac-12 surfaced in June 2022 when USC and UCLA announced plans to leave for the Big Ten in Summer 2024. With the conference struggling to negotiate a new media rights deal, Colorado then announced a return to the Big 12 on the same timeline in July. Oregon and Washington followed one week later by following USC and UCLA's lead with Big Ten moves, while Utah, Arizona State and Arizona joined Colorado in accepting Big 12 invitations. Cal and Stanford then became the ninth and tenth defections in early September when they were accepted into the ACC.