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Washington judge nixes Pac-12 presidents' meeting

A judge in Colfax, Washington has ruled that the Pac-12 athletic conference may not convene a meeting of its presidents as planned on Wednesday.
A judge in Colfax, Washington has ruled that the Pac-12 athletic conference may not convene a meeting of its presidents as planned on Wednesday.

Whitman County Judge Gary Libey has ruled the Pac-12 athletic conference presidents may not meet as planned on Wednesday to discuss the future of the league.

Libey approved an order sought by lawyers for Oregon State and Washington State universities. Attorney Eric MacMichael said the conference bylaws make it clear that once a member announces plans to leave that it no longer has a place on the board of directors. He said the conference followed those rules in removing representatives of three schools after the institutions announced plans to switch leagues.

“Our goal here is to apply the bylaws, not to rewrite them, and people who have announced that they are leaving, don’t get to rewrite the bylaws of an association after the fact,” MacMichael said.

He said the conference followed its bylaws in removing representatives of the University of Southern California and UCLA from the conference board last year after they announced their intention to become Big 10 members next year. It also voted to boot a University of Colorado representative in August after the school said it would switch to the Big 12.

MacMichael argued Wednesday’s meeting could be construed as one where the 10 schools leaving planned to change the rules to allow them to dissolve the Pac-12 and divide up its remaining assets.

Pac-12 attorney Mark Lambert said that’s a misreading of the intent of Wednesday’s meeting.

“I want to make clear, to suggest that Commissioner Kliavkoff has taken a side with the 10 members over the two is a mischaracterization. He is trying his level best to steer this troubled ship and to make sure that it doesn’t sink,” he said.

Lambert argued Wednesday’s meeting was necessary to allow the conference to approve a retention plan for the league’s nearly 200 employees. Without them, he said, the league would cease to function. Libey agreed and said the schools could negotiate and implement a plan via email if it has unanimous support. But he said the Pac-12 presidents should not meet until a court can decide which institutions should have a seat at the table.

After the hearing, Washington State University President Kirk Schulz issued this statement: “We are very pleased with the court's decision today. It has always been our view that the future of the Pac-12 should be determined by the remaining members, not by those schools that are leaving the conference.”

“We didn’t ask for or create this situation,” MacMichael said during the hearing. “The fact that there are only two remaining members who are eligible to vote on the board is a direct result of the actions of the other members who chose to prioritize their own financial self interest over the interests of the Pac-12.”

Oregon State University President Jayathi Murthy also issued a statement following Monday's court proceedings.

“As the two remaining Pac- 12 members, Oregon State and Washington State must be able to chart a path forward for the Pac 12 – not the members that have chosen to leave it," she said. "We are confident in the merits of our position and look forward to working in a collaborative manner with the conference and departing members on a productive path forward. OSU and WSU, along with Pac-12 staff, have important work to do to protect the 2023-2024 seasons for all 12 schools’ student-athletes and plan for our future.”

KLCC contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 Spokane Public Radio.

Doug Nadvornick
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