Judge Grants Power to Pac-2 — Washington State and Oregon State

Sign of the times
Sign of the times

As foreseen back in September, we present you with the Pac-2

Technically. Legally. For now, although this most recent judgment seems to make too much common sense to last long in our litigious society. 

A judge granted Oregon State and Washington State a preliminary injunction Tuesday in their legal battle with 10 departing Pac-12 schools, giving the Pacific Northwest rivals control of the conference and millions of dollars in assets.

So, Oregon State and Washington State could soon determine how they will go about keeping the Pac-12 alive and what schools they will be competing against next year.

One thing is for sure — it will be complicated and it will not be easy. OK, that's two things, unless complicated means it won't be easy, in which case that's just redundant. If you think this paragraph is screwed up, it's nothing compared to the condition of the Pac-Pick-a-number conference. 

A two-school conference, allowable on a temporary basis by the NCAA, is a possibility for Oregon State and Washington State next year. But the two schools can’t just compete against each other. Not only would that soon become boring, but it lowers the competitive bar below what is necessary to remain among the so-called Big Five, which is helpful in recruiting players, funding and broadcast income. 

Remember this is about more than football and to complete schedules in all sports, the schools discussed a partnership with the Mountain West. Alas, the devil is in the details of such an alliance and working them out will take time.
Just spit-balling here, but If the two schools start a new league it could be called the Western Wilderness Conference, featuring outposts in Corvallis, Oregon and Pullman, Washington. Of course the teams were stranded in this position because they have small regional followings. No big bucks, except maybe the reclusive black-tails in the lush coastal mountains and western Cascades, or Mules in the Northeast High Desert -- in-season, of course.
"Obviously, our market size, eyeballs on televisions, did not create the leverage needed to be in a different circumstance," Oregon State's Athletic Director Scott Barnes said in September. “That said, know this, that we will find the right place for our student-athletes, the highest and best place for them to compete, as well as our coaches."
The Pac-12 also has no media rights deal beyond this season. Both schools have acknowledged they are facing a huge drop in revenue as the Pac-12 loses Power Five status.

“We look forward to charting a path forward for the Pac-12 that is in the best interest of the conference and student-athletes,” Oregon State President Jayathi Murthy and Barnes, the AD, said in a statement. “Our intentions are to make reasonable business decisions going forward while continuing to seek collaboration and consultation with the departing universities.”

At a hearing in Whitman County Superior Court, not far from Washington State’s Pullman campus, Judge Gary Libey ruled Oregon State and Washington State should be the only members making decisions about Pac-12 business.  “Oregon State and Washington State will be the sole members of the board,” Libey said, ruling quickly after hearing arguments for about 2 1/2 hours.

The outgoing Pac-12 schools say they will appeal the ruling, of course, in their ongoing money-grab from the organization they left for greener -- and we mean USD green -- pastures. 

“Nothing’s going to change in the Pac-12,” Libey said, ridiculously oversimplifying the realities.

“The athletes will still be competing. The schools will still be doing business. The Pac-12 will still be doing business but will be governed by the two universities that have not submitted their notice of withdrawal.”

Washington State Director or Athletics Pat Chun and university president Kirk Schulz attended the hearing, along with Barnes.

“We are pleased with the court’s common-sense 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 received a temporary restraining order, but the conference was allowed to conduct day-to-day business as long as decisions had unanimous approval by all 12 schools.

Within the span of a month this summer, eight Pac-12 schools announced they would leave the conference to join other Power Five leagues, starting in August of 2024. Southern California and UCLA announced in 2022 they would leave for the Big Ten.

That left only Oregon State and Washington State committed to the Pac-12 long term, and officials at both schools decided their best path forward is to rebuild the conference.

They contend Pac-12 bylaws say schools that announce they are leaving relinquish the right to be part of the board of directors and have no say in any decisions that could impact the league’s long-term viability. In court documents, Oregon State and Washington State claim they have reason to fear the departing schools would vote — if allowed to convene as board members — to dissolve the conference and distribute its assets among the group of 12.

The judge agreed.

“Conduct is what counts and words don’t so much,” Libey said.

Oregon State and Washington State also say when USC and UCLA announced their intention to leave, they were immediately removed from the board and 24 meetings were conducted without them.

Eric MacMichael, an attorney for Oregon State, argued on behalf of both schools that the departing members had no incentive to invest in the preservation of the conference. The departing schools argued conference rules give them the right to be involved in the running of the conference until they actually leave next year.

Really? Goes to show that rules and reality don't necessarily combine to make common sense.

They claim Oregon State and Washington State are trying to seize more than $400 million in revenue the Pac-12 is set to receive this year, cutting out 10 members who are still competing in and contributing to the conference.

Sounds reasonable to us. You can't bolt to go elsewhere to get money, leave the conference in a lurch and still reap rewards.

“We are disappointed with the decision and are immediately seeking review in the Washington Supreme Court and requesting to put on hold implementation of this decision,” the departing schools said in a joint statement.

Yea, losing control of $400 million is probably disappointing. Probably should have considered that when packing up to go elsewhere for money. Kind of falls into the category "have your cake and eat it, too," or "having it both ways."

Libey said Oregon State and Washington State would need to give notice of any decisions that could impact the departing schools and warned that if they treat the outgoing members unfairly, they could expect to be back in court.

Oregon State and Washington obviously must do something quickly about plans for next season.

“We are trying to explore all options,” MacMichael said. “But we can’t do anything right now because we’re shackled to 10 people who have no interest in seeing this conference survive or move forward or even have a future. All they want is to get every last dollar that 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 state of paralysis that we’re currently in.”

The Pac-12, now minus 10, also has no media-rights deal beyond this season. Both schools have acknowledged they are facing a huge drop in revenue as the Pac-12 loses Power Five status.

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