With Washington as the conduit, the 10 outgoing members of the Pac-12 on Thursday filed a motion opposing the push by Washington State and Oregon State to secure a preliminary injunction that would grant the two remaining schools control of the conference.
WSU and OSU believe the 10 outbound schools have relinquished their seats on the governing board by accepting offers from other conferences, thereby leaving the Cougars and Beavers as the only voting members and in control of the assets.
The departing schools are fighting to retain their seats. In the latest filing in Whitman County Superior Court, they argued that WSU and OSU intend to use revenue generated by the Pac-12 in the current sports year to fund their plans for the future:
“If they seize sole control of the Board, they will have control of that revenue earned by all 12 member schools. They have said publicly that they are looking to add schools from conferences that would require the Pac-12 to pay them tens of millions in exit fees.
“Allowing them to do that with current-year revenues, which the Conference members long-ago agreed would be distributed evenly to all 12 institutions, is not the status quo.
“Whatever OSU and WSU decide to do with money earned after August 1, 2024, it is fundamentally inequitable to allow them to take current year revenues and – in the words of the Conference – ‘confiscate such revenues and assets in contravention of all members’ rights to and interest in them.’ ”
The motion states that the Pac-12 expects “more than $100 million in revenue in each of the two years after the 10 schools depart” – meaning the 2025 and 2026 fiscal years.
It does not provide a breakdown of the revenue streams, but the Rose Bowl contract, College Football Playoff distributions and NCAA Tournament units are believed to be worth tens of millions of dollars per year.
Washington’s motion of opposition is the latest move in the ongoing legal battle that began in September. A hearing on the preliminary injunction is scheduled for Nov. 14. Additionally, the two sides have also entered mediation.
The motion asks that the preliminary injunction be denied, “or, if it is granted, the order should be stayed to maintain the status quo while UW takes these issues to the Washington Supreme Court.
“At a minimum, any preliminary injunction should build in protections for UW and the other schools so that Plaintiffs’ effort to disrupt the status quo cannot be used to deprive 10 other schools of their rights during their remaining term as Conference members.”
The motion argues that the 10 departing schools have not violated the section of the bylaws that define the process of withdrawing from the conference.
OSU and WSU believe that sworn statements by commissioner George Kliavkoff and actions taken by the conference prior to Aug. 4 prove schools were systematically removed from the board after publicly announcing their intentions to join other conferences.
The motion also includes previously unreported details of efforts by OSU and WSU to secure a future in the Power Five:
• “On July 30, (Oregon State) President Murthy spoke with University of Virginia’s president about potentially joining the ACC.”
• “In a private message on Aug. 5 produced in discovery, WSU President Kirk Schulz proposed to President Murthy and the leaders of Stanford and Cal that all four schools could join the Big 12.” (The Bay Area schools eventually joined the ACC.)
• “The text messages between President Murthy and AD Barnes reveal that OSU was still pursuing membership in the Big 12 in late August 2023 and early September.”
In addition to the motion, the 10 schools issued the following joint statement:
“We are committed to supporting the needs and interests of our universities and of the student-athletes of all 12 member schools, who are actively participating in Pac-12 athletics this year. The attempt by Oregon State University and Washington State University to take sole control of the Pac-12 Conference would undermine this season’s Pac-12 competitions and deprive the other 10 members of the funds that have been rightfully earned by all our universities.
“Granting OSU and WSU unilateral authority over hundreds of millions of dollars in 2023-2024 revenue needed this year to run our athletics programs would harm our universities, including our ability to provide critical resources and opportunities for our student-athletes.
“Their lawsuit stems from a flawed interpretation of the Pac-12 Bylaws, which were drafted and ratified by all 12 schools to ensure an equal revenue distribution for every member who remains in the Conference throughout the current media rights deal, which ends in summer 2024. All 10 member schools adhered to these bylaws, and we are resolute in protecting our rights to participate in Pac-12 Conference governance through the end of this season.
“We note that, regardless of the outcome of their lawsuit – and even if they had not filed it – OSU and WSU will still control roughly $200 million in Conference revenue after our 10 schools depart the Conference. While we recognize and respect OSU’s and WSU’s need to secure the best future for their institutions, we cannot let their legal campaign harm our efforts on behalf of our student-athletes and university communities.”
In response to the motion, Washington State and Oregon State issued a statement of their own:
“Today’s filing is yet another attempt by the departing schools to ignore conference Bylaws and prevent OSU and WSU from exercising their right to govern the future of the Pac-12. It is disappointing that the departing schools are directly reversing their prior interpretation of the Bylaws in an effort to take control of the Pac-12, a conference to which they no longer have any loyalty. We did not create or seek these circumstances, but OSU and WSU will continue to take whatever actions are necessary to protect our universities, ensure accountability and transparency, safeguard the Pac-12 Conference, and preserve our options moving forward.”