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Washington State, Oregon State take Pac-12 to court

In Whitman County, too!

Whitman County Washington courthouse Photo by: Don & Melinda Crawford/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If I’m leading the Colfax Chamber of Commerce, I’m drafting a design for a big banner to hang across Main Street that says “WELCOME TO COLFAX, SAVIOR OF THE PAC-12.” You know, just in case.

That’s because the future of the crumbling conference might be decided by a judge in the county seat of Whitman County.

Washington State and Oregon State filed a legal complaint against Kliavkoff and the Pac-12 today, asking a judge to clarify the governance of the conference—namely, whether the 10 departing schools even have a seat at the table to determine the Pac-12’s future.

They’re also asking for important business information, which is something you shouldn’t need a judge to do, but this is the Pac-12 we’re talking about.

Anyway, here’s how we got here, according to Jon Wilner: On Aug. 29, Kliavkoff asked WSU President Kirk Schulz—the Pac-12 board chair, thank goodness—to call the rest of the board together to, “discuss matters related to the departing members, proposed amendments to the Bylaws, a proposed conflicts of interest plan for Pac-12 members, and an employee compensation and retention plan for the Commissioner and other employees of the Pac-12.”

Schulz said no, given the whirlwind of realignment and uncertainty.

So Kliavkoff then tried to organize the meeting himself, writing to the CEOs to, “discuss ‘complex issues facing the Conference,’” according to Wilner. What you should note here is he didn’t not call this a board meeting. But we’re all smarter than that.

The legal action today is asking a Whitman County judge to basically determine whether this meeting can even take place to include presidents and chancellors from the departing schools. In a separate story on the legal filing, Wilner cites the Pac-12 bylaws:

The Pac-12 bylaws state that if a school gives notice of withdrawal prior to Aug. 1, 2024, then its “representative to the Pac-12 Board of Directors shall automatically cease to be a member of the Pac-12 Board of Directors and shall cease to have the right to vote on any matter.”

All Pac-12 schools not named Washington State or Oregon State made their withdrawals clear last month. If we’re all reading the bylaws correctly, that means only the presidents of Washington State and Oregon State make up the board, and therefore, are the decision makers. The biggest decision is whether to dissolve the conference or keep it a two-team outfit while they try and rebuild. Dissolving the conference would divvy up the conference assets among all 12 schools, while keeping it intact would mean Washington State and Oregon State control the assets.

I think it’s clear what the 10 departing members want to do.

In fact, one unnamed member of the board made his intentions clear:

The filing includes a comment from one departing school, which is not named: “One representative from a departing Pac-12 member stated his view just two days ago that ‘9 Members can declare the fate of the Conference at any time.’”

So strap in, Coug fans. All eyes are on Colfax, Washington.

Here’s some reading material on this issue:

WSU: Remaining members of Pac‑12 take legal action to confirm governance

Jon Wilner: Pac-12 chaos: Washington State, Oregon State take legal action against the conference over control of assets, voting rights

Jon Wilner: Inside the 11 days that led to Washington State and OSU taking legal action against the Pac-12 Conference

ESPN: Oregon State, Washington State file complaint against Pac-12

Yahoo!: Could Pac-12 survive after all? Oregon State, Washington State hope so with legal move