Washington State running back Nakia Watson celebrates his touchdown during the first half of a game against Colorado on Nov. 17 in Pullman. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Washington State running back Nakia Watson celebrates his touchdown during the first half of a game against Colorado on Nov. 17 in Pullman. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

State Supreme Court denies review of Pac-12 appeal

The decision hands control of conference to Washington State and Oregon State.

The Washington state Supreme Court declined on Friday to review the Pac-12’s appeal of a lower court ruling that gives full control of the conference to Oregon State and Washington State, keeping in place a legal victory for the league’s two remaining schools over its 10 departing members.

“We are pleased with the Washington Supreme Court’s decision today. We look forward to continuing our work of charting a path forward for the conference that is in the best interest of student-athletes and our wider university communities,” Oregon State President Jayathi Murthy and Washington State President Kirk Schulz said in a joint statement.

Last month, a superior court judge in Whitman County granted the two remaining Pac-12 schools a preliminary injunction that sided with Oregon State and Washington State’s argument, saying 10 departing schools relinquished their right to be part of the conference’s decision-making board when they announced they were joining new leagues in 2024.

The decision put Oregon State and Washington State in control of hundreds of millions of dollars in Pac-12 assets, but also made them fully responsible for the conference’s liabilities.

The departing schools appealed the ruling. They contend conference bylaws allow them to continue to be part of the Pac-12 board of directors and have a say in how the conference is run until they actually withdraw from the league in August 2024.

The Nov. 15 ruling was put on hold by the state Supreme Court a few days later and a ruling from September was kept in place that calls for unanimous vote by all 12 schools of any conference business.

Friday’s order lifts the stay and puts the preliminary injunction into effect.

Now Washington State and Oregon State can proceed as the sole decision-makers in the conference, though Superior Court Judge Gary Libey, while making his ruling in November, warned the schools about treating the departing schools unfairly and hoarding funds.

The 10 departing schools have said they are concerned that Oregon State and Washington State could deny them 2023-24 revenues from media rights contracts and postseason football and basketball participation that usually would be shared with the entire conference.

An in-season revenue distribution totaling $61 million dollars that otherwise would have been divvied up among 12 members in December was held up recently by the lack of a unanimous vote, according to a report by the San Jose Mercury News that was confirmed to the AP by a person with direct knowledge of the situation. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the conference was not making its internal business decisions public.

Ten Pac-12 schools have announced they are joining other power conferences next year, leaving Oregon State and Washington State facing a future with drastically reduced yearly revenues to fund their athletic departments.

Oregon State and Washington State have a plan to keep the Pac-12 alive and try to rebuild that includes operating as a two-team conference for at least one year, maybe two.

The schools announced earlier this month a football-scheduling partnership with the Mountain West. That partnership could eventually extend to other sports.

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