(AP) — The University of Washington asked a court on Monday to dismiss the lawsuit brought against the Pac-12 by Oregon State and Washington State, which seeks to prevent the conference’s departing members from standing in the way of their efforts to rebuild the beleaguered league.
A mediation process is ongoing between Oregon State and Washington State and the 10 departing Pac-12 members, according to the court filings, but two schools believe that shouldn’t stop the court case from proceeding.
At issue is who gets to decide what happens to the Pac-12 between now and when those schools officially leave for their new conference on Aug. 1, 2024.
“The departing schools continue to undermine our efforts to secure the future of the Pac-12 Conference. They are relying on flimsy arguments to try to escape accountability for their actions,” Oregon State and Washington State said in a statement.
Washington’s motion to intervene in the case, which was granted and includes a request for dismissal, was filed in Superior Court in Whitman County, not far from Washington State’s Pullman campus.
“As we share another memorable fall season of Pac-12 athletics, we recognize the complex challenges of the current situation. Our court filings show how our schools are in full compliance with the Pac-12 Bylaws, which prohibit a member from leaving the conference before August 2024 but allow schools to announce a withdrawal that will happen after that date. We are looking forward to engaging in further candid and constructive conversations that will allow us to reach a fair resolution and position our communities for future success.”
The nine other departing members filed a brief in support of the University of Washington’s motion.
The 10 outgoing schools say Oregon State and Washington State broke conference rules by not “making a meaningful attempt to resolve the dispute” internally and that the departing members have been precluded from the legal process because only the Pac-12 and Commissioner George Kliavkoff are listed as defendants in the lawsuit.
“UW has a significant stake in opposing WSU and OSU’s claims and preventing the Court from granting the relief requested,” Washington wrote in the filing.
The departing schools also contend they have not officially withdrawn from the conference until they have given written notice.
“Our court filings show how our schools are in full compliance with the Pac-12 Bylaws, which prohibit a member from leaving the conference before August 2024 but allow schools to announce a withdrawal that will happen after that date,” the departing schools said in a statement. “We are looking forward to engaging in further candid and constructive conversations that will allow us to reach a fair resolution and position our communities for future success.”
Oregon State and Washington State say public declarations and internal communications about joining a new conference amount to an official notice of withdrawal, and by doing so the departing schools relinquished their rights to govern the Pac-12.
Judge Gary Libey granted on Sept. 11 a request by Oregon State and Washington State for a temporary restraining order to prevent Kliavkoff from convening a board meeting that would include representatives from any of the 10 departing members.
The judge did allow the conference to conduct day-to-day business, saying any decisions need to be made by unanimous vote. That provided short-term relief for Oregon State and Washington State.
A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled to be heard by Libey on Nov. 14 that is intended to settle the question of who now runs the Pac-12.
Lawyers for Oregon State and Washington State said the schools fear outgoing members might try to dissolve the conference, which takes a three-quarters majority vote.
The Pac-12 was torn apart by a wave of conference realignment this past summer, triggered by Kliavkoff’s inability to land a media rights deal that members believed would keep them competitive with schools in other Power Five conferences.
Oregon State and Washington State are the only members of the Pac-12 that have not declared their intention to join another conference, starting in August. The schools are facing a dramatic decrease in revenue and exposure as they search for their next conference affiliation.
Some type of partnership with Mountain West schools is the likely resolution, but even that is complicated.
NCAA rules allow for Oregon State and Washington State to operate as a two-team conference for the next two years.
Leaders from the schools have said repeatedly their first priority is to keep the Pac-12 alive, and that they are trying to identify the conference’s assets and liabilities.