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Judge bars Pac-12 from having board meeting

A state judge in Washington granted a temporary restraining order Monday to prevent the Pac-12 conference from meeting as a board later this week.

Judge Gary Libey ruled in favor of Oregon State and Washington State in Whitman County Superior Court after they jointly filed a complaint Friday that saw the potential of the Pac-12 meeting as a board and voting as an “imminent and existential threat” to the future of the conference.

The ruling for the temporary restraining order prevents a Pac-12 board meeting scheduled for Wednesday and sets up a preliminary injunction hearing that is expected to determine who makes up the voting members of the Pac-12 board of directors.

That hearing has not been set but would likely be scheduled in October. It could include document and email discovery from the Pac-12 and member schools and live witness testimony from prominent officials in and around the Pac-12.

“Today’s ruling is an important first step to bring clarity and fairness to Pac-12 governance,” said Drew Tulumello, counsel to Washington State and school president Kirk Schulz. “The future of the Pac-12 should be controlled by the schools who stay, not those who go.”

Oregon State and Washington State have argued that they should be the only voting members remaining in the conference, citing precedent that previous members who’ve notified the Pac-12 of their withdrawal from the league have lost voting rights.

In the past 18 months, 10 members have departed the Pac-12. That has left only Oregon State and Washington State to sift through the remaining assets and liabilities as they attempt to determine whether it’s worth pushing forward with the league. There’s value in the league’s name, television network, remaining assets and NCAA men’s basketball tournament units that could be used as a lure to help facilitate a merger with the Mountain West.

Oregon State and Washington State filed supporting exhibits that included a letter from the Pac-12’s general counsel to Colorado in July that informed it explicitly that, effective immediately, “CU no longer has the right to vote on any matter before the Board.” In the hearing Monday, attorney Eric MacMichael argued on behalf of Oregon State and Washington State that all the schools want is “to see if they can save this conference and allow it to move forward.”

The Pac-12’s attorney present at the hearing, Mark Lambert, argued for the meeting to be held in order to conduct league business. He said the league has nearly 200 employees and is working to “keep its lights” on and keep “critical employees in place.” He added that commissioner George Kliavkoff, who was not present at the hearing, is in a terrible position and is just trying to keep league business moving smoothly.

“Every Saturday until June of next year, he’s responsible for all [league] activity,” Lambert said.

The Pac-12 declined comment.

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