Oregon State and Washington State filed for an emergency temporary restraining order against the Pac-12 and commissioner George Kliavkoff Friday. The two schools seek to stop all votes on league matters until there is legal clarity on who controls what is left of the conference.
The Pac-12's remaining assets are at the heart of the dispute, particularly since Pac-12 bylaws suggest the presidents at Oregon State and Washington State should be alone on the conference's board of directors by virtue of other members giving formal notice of intent to exit the conference.
"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. "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 two schools have reportedly requested that the Pac-12 board meeting scheduled for Sept. 13 be canceled amid the dispute. Canceling the meeting would prevent non-continuing Pac-12 members from potentially voting to dissolve the conference or evenly distribute the remaining assets. Oregon State and Washington State contend such a vote could cause "irreparable damage" to the two institutions.
"Unless Defendants are enjoined from holding this meeting, the Pac-12 and the ten departing members will wrongfully seize control of the Conference in violation of the Bylaws and take steps that will cause irreparable harm to WSU and OSU," the filing reads, according to ESPN. "Once the Conference allows the ten ineligible former Board members to participate on the Board and purport to vote on behalf of the Conference, irreparable damage to Plaintiffs will be done.
"The Conference will have breached its Bylaws; WSU's and OSU's rights as remaining members of the Pac-12 Conference will have been eviscerated; and the ten departing members may seek to amend the Bylaws to alter the governance structure of the Conference and take actions to protect their own self-interests to the detriment of WSU and OSU."
In the filing, Washington State president Kirk Schulz reportedly called for "urgent intervention".
"The Pac-12 Conference and the Pac-12 Conference Board of Directors cannot resolve this dispute through internal means," Schulz said in the filing, according to ESPN. "At its core, this is a dispute over who has the authority to act on behalf of the Pac-12 Conference. Only judicial intervention can resolve this dispute."
The Pac-12 endured its first defections in June 2022, when USC and UCLA announced they would leave the conference to join the Big Ten in Summer 2024. Eight more schools announced intent to depart for other conferences this past summer. Oregon and Washington followed suit with Big Ten moves, while Colorado, Utah, Arizona State and Arizona are headed to the Big 12. Cal and Stanford then became the ninth and tenth defections when they accepted invitations to the ACC at the start of September.