Pac-12 legal delay: WSU and OSU hoped to proceed quickly, but conference office slow to move

Pac-12 legal delay: WSU and OSU hoped to proceed quickly, but conference office slow to move

Soon after Implosion Friday across the Pac-12, Washington State president Kirk Schulz identified the most immediate task: Determining which schools had voting rights and control of the conference’s assets.

“We think there will be some clarity around governance issues in the next two weeks,” he told the Hotline.

One month later, clarity has not emerged.

Stanford and Cal have fled to the ACC. Only Washington State and Oregon State remain, and they still don’t have the answers needed to take the next step, whether it’s reforming the Pac-12 or joining the Mountain West.

“I’m frustrated that we haven’t gotten the information as quickly as we had hoped,” OSU athletic director Scott Barnes told Oregonlive.com last weekend. “It is trickling in. We need to get that buttoned down.”

The Hotline sought answers from the conference office.

Why is it taking so long to determine the assets, liabilities and governing control?

The Pac-12 declined to comment.

What is the process and who’s involved?

The Pac-12 declined to comment.

When might full clarity emerge?

The Pac-12 declined to comment.

The same radio silence that defined the Pac-12’s messaging strategy throughout the media rights negotiations is at work in this endeavor. Which is fine — the conference isn’t obligated to share information with the media.

But it’s required to assist Washington State, Oregon State and the outgoing schools by any means necessary. And once again, headquarters has failed to execute at the necessary level.

“Any well-run business should, within 48 hours, have the most up-to-date profit-and-loss statement, balance sheet and liabilities and assets,” an industry source said.

“At the latest, they should have had this at the end of August, knowing the odds were pretty good Stanford and Cal were leaving.”

Are the finances so messy, the bylaws so vague, that the experts are struggling to understand the critical details?

“The conference has been so poorly managed for so long on so many levels,’’ a source said.

One possible cause for the delay: The Pac-12’s CFO, Morane Kerek, was hired in June but did not begin her duties until Aug. 9 — five days after the implosion.

She has been tasked with finding gold coins amid the rubble without a grasp of the landscape.

How much value exists in the emergency reserves? Which schools own the revenue from NCAA Tournament units earned to date? Is there value in the Rose Bowl contract? In sponsorship deals? In the Pac-12 Networks? And what about the liabilities?

But responsibility cannot be left to Kerek alone. What role, if any, is commissioner George Kliavkoff playing? Are the WSU and OSU financial officers being given access to the financial records? Are their general counsels examining the bylaws?

On those matters, too, clarity is lacking.

According to the bylaws, the CEO Group (i.e., the university presidents) runs the conference:

“Except as otherwise provided by law or in the Conference Governing Documents, the business and affairs of the Conference shall be managed by or under the direction of the CEO Group. The CEO Group shall be the governing body of the Conference.”

But in the wake of the mass exodus, the makeup of the board of directors is unclear.

The bylaws indicate that any school providing a “notice of departure” relinquishes its voting rights. That seems simple enough, except the 10 outbound members have not provided the Pac-12 with formal departure notices, according to a source.

Does that mean they have retained voting rights? Or have their public actions served as de facto declarations of intent?

After all, the Big 12, Big Ten and ACC have all acknowledged the new members on social media; several schools held news conferences to address their departures; presidents and athletic directors have commented on the pending moves.

Do the announcements and public comments constitute legally binding departure notices? Could a settlement be forthcoming?

In realignment, billable hours are undefeated.

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There are at least two plausible tracks for the Beavers and Cougars:

— They could enter the Mountain West next summer in a standard expansion move, just as Washington and Oregon are entering the Big Ten, and shutter the Pac-12 forever.

— They could attempt to preserve the Pac-12 brand and retain the assets. In that scenario, the 12 Mountain West schools could vote to dissolve their league, thereby eliminating departure penalties, and join the Pac-12 en masse.

“No brand in the Group of Five has the value of the Pac-12 brand,’’ the industry source said. “If you have the brand, you own the history.”

The brand, the history, the assets and voting control — everything is on hold until the Pac-12 provides the Cougars and Beavers with the critical information they requested a month ago but is only “trickling in.”

What a shock. The conference office isn’t adequately serving its members.

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