NCAA Football: Pac-12 Championship-Oregon at Washington

The Washington Supreme Court has denied a motion for discretionary review by the 10 departing Pac-12 members in a decision announced Friday. With the ruling, the courts once again grant Oregon State and Washington State control of the Pac-12 and all of its assets, reinstating a decision made in lower court. 

The two sides previously argued their cases in Whitman County (Washington) Court, leading to a judge ruling that by announcing intent to leave the conference, the 10 schools had ceded voting rights. USC and UCLA were previously dismissed as voting members of the Pac-12 board after announcing plans to join the Big Ten. Whitman County is the home of Washington State University. 

After the county court decision, the 10 departing members, led by the University of Washington, filed in Washington Supreme Court for further review. The Supreme Court initially issued an emergency stay, reverting to a temporary restraining order requiring all 12 members of the board to act unanimously. After reviewing the full motion to overturn the Whitman County decision, the Supreme Court declined to move on with the case. 

Oregon State and Washington State are now considered the only two voting members of the Pac-12 and have sole power to set the agenda and make decisions for the future of the conference. It also prevents the remaining 10 schools from voting to sell off any assets or contracts before the conference drops from 12 to two members. 

"We are pleased with the Washington Supreme Court's decision today," said Washington State president Kirk Schultz and Oregon State president Jayathi Murthy in a joint statement. "We look forward to continuing our work of charting a path forward for the conference that is in the best interest of student-athletes and our wider university communities."

While OSU and WSU have controlling interest in the Pac-12, the pairing is still required to act in the fiduciary interest of the entire group. The schools do not have the ability to withhold money that is rightfully owed to the departing 10 members. 

Oregon State and Washington State opted to withhold 15% of the conference revenue normally distributed in December, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The decision incensed the departing members and was expected to be used as proof that Oregon State and Washington State should not have controlling interest of the conference. 

"A decision to distribute 15% of the more than $400 million in net revenues to the members now to support student athletes, as the Conference has always done in December, has nothing to do with the future of the Conference," the 10 departing schools said in a joint statement to The Athletic. "Instead, OSU and WSU's refusal to agree to it shows that the two schools are abusing their position to injure our programs and athletes in violation of all prior precedents."

The timing of the distribution is not explicitly written into the bylaws, giving Oregon State and Washington State discretion to hold the revenue for a later time. However, that money will still ultimately be owed to the 10 schools as part of normal Pac-12 distributions. 

The two remaining schools recently announced plans to enter into a scheduling agreement with the Mountain West for the 2024 season and an option for 2025. The pair will take advantage of an NCAA rule that allows a two-year buffer period for a conference to reach the required eight members. The winner of the so-called "Pac-2" championship will not be eligible for a College Football Playoff auto-bid. 

After the two-year stretch, Oregon State and Washington State will either need to add additional members or merge with another conference. The Mountain West remains a possibility; however, the long-term contracts and distributions given to the Pac-12 after 2024 will give the schools a nest egg to start their next partnership.