February 22, 2024
The athletic directors said the conference's slow-moving process and upcoming board meeting left them with no choice.

Washington State athletic director Pat Chun on Friday expressed deep frustration with the ongoing lack of clarity into Pac-12 assets and liabilities that are at the core of a legal dispute over control of the conference.

Along the way, Chun addressed the state of leadership in the Pac-12.

“There is none,” he said. “That’s why Washington State and Oregon State need to step in and provide it.”

The presidents of the Pac-12’s two remaining schools filed legal action against the conference and commissioner George Kliavkoff on Friday.

WSU’s Kirk Schulz and OSU’s Jayathi Murthy are seeking a declaratory judgment on the makeup of the Pac-12 board of directors and a temporary restraining order to prevent the 10 outgoing schools from voting on key strategic and financial matters.

WSU and OSU have been attempting to gain a firm understanding of the Pac-12’s assets and liabilities since early last month, when five schools announced their departures. Since then, Stanford and Cal have also made plans to exit, leaving just the Cougars and Beavers as members starting next summer.

“The temporary restraining order is not something we wanted to do, but we felt it was necessary in order to continue exploring the options we have,” Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes said Friday.

Barnes explained that the impetus for legal action against the conference was Kliavkoff’s decision to convene the board of directors for a meeting on Sept. 13. He invited the presidents of all 12 schools even though 10 have agreed to join other leagues.

Kliavkoff’s move to include every president “was the tipping point,” Barnes said, for the Beavers and Cougars “to protect the rights of our student-athletes. That’s the priority — getting the student-athletes in the best position we can.”

After USC and UCLA announced their moves to the Big Ten in the summer of 2022, the Pac-12 excluded the two schools from future meetings of the board of directors. It did the same to Colorado after the Buffaloes announced on July 27 that they were leaving for the Big 12.

But on Aug. 29, Kliavkoff invited all 12 presidents to a board meeting for the week of Sept. 11 — including the board members who had been excluded previously.

“Based on the conference’s behavior the past 24 months,” Chun said, “it’s clear the board is the presidents of Washington State and Oregon State.”

WSU and OSU are mulling at least two options:

— Join the Mountain West in time for the 2024 football season in a traditional realignment move.

— Rebuild the Pac-12, likely using a reverse merger with the schools from the Mountain West.

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In order to make a final determination, they need a full understanding of the Pac-12’s assets and liabilities — and clarity on the makeup of the board that controls the finances.

“I don’t know why they have not acted,” Chun said of the conference office’s approach. “Time is of the essence to the institutions.

“It’s unacceptable to not have the transparency from which we can make an analysis. We need full clarity on the assets and liabilities.”

Asked for an assessment of WSU’s status, Chun added:

“We’re in the same place we’ve been, trying to evaluate all our options. And the one that’s taking the most time is the future of the Pac-12.”

Barnes said the legal action taken Friday “won’t halt our continued conversations” on a path forward.

He declined to comment on Kliavkoff’s leadership.

“I have shared my frustration with the slow process in gaining information,” he said.

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