Washington Supreme Court stays ruling on Pac-12 control

ByKyle Bonagura ESPN logo
Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Washington Supreme Court stayed a lower court's ruling from earlier this month that granted control of the Pac-12 to Oregon State and Washington State, keeping in place a temporary restraining order that requires the conference to act with unanimity in all matters.

The TRO will remain as the court decides where to retain the case for review or transfer it to the state's court of appeals. An accelerated briefing schedule to determine how the case will move forward will conclude by Dec. 12.

Washington, acting on behalf of the other nine universities departing the Pac-12 -- Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Utah -- previously opposed the lower court's ruling and took the matter to the state's Supreme Court.

Tuesday's ruling was largely expected.

"We are pleased that the Washington Supreme Court has put on hold the preliminary injunction that would have given OSU and WSU sole control of the Pac-12 Conference," the departing 10 schools said in a statement. "The decision effectively ensures that all 12 current members will have an equal voice in determining how the revenue our schools earned this year is distributed and utilized while the Court considers our arguments.

"This funding is vital to our ability to operate our athletics programs and to provide mental and physical health services, academic support, and other support programs for our student-athletes. The combined earnings of 12 schools during the 2023-2024 academic year should not be unilaterally governed by just two institutions while we all remain members of the Conference."

In their own statement, OSU and WSU said they were disappointed with the court's latest decision.

"We did not create or seek these circumstances, but Oregon State and Washington State remain committed to taking aggressive action to protect our universities, ensure accountability and transparency, safeguard student-athletes and the Pac-12 Conference, and preserve our options moving forward," OSU and WSU spokespersons Rob Odom and Phil Weiler said. "The lawsuit is still pending, and this motion was for temporary relief pending appeal. OSU and WSU will be seeking court review of the Commissioner's decision."

The longer this process drags out the more impactful it becomes for OSU and WSU, which need a resolution before being able to chart their path forward. The schools have expressed their intention to rebuild the conference. However, without a full accounting of what assets they will have or the ability to conduct future business -- currently prevented by the TRO -- they are left to plan for multiple scenarios.