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Litigating on the Front Lines of Pac-12 Power Struggle


Keker Van Nest & Peters partner Eric MacMichael was interviewed by Law360 to discuss his work successfully representing Oregon State University against the Pac-12 Conference to determine control of the Pac-12, in the wake of the announced departures of 10 Conference members. The firm achieved a temporary restraining order that prevented the 10 departing Conference members from wrongfully seizing control of the Pac-12, and ultimately negotiated a settlement. An excerpt from the interview is below. The full article can be read here. 

When you're working on a case like this, to what extent are you just focused on a good outcome for your client versus ensuring some kind of stability for college athletics going forward?

The way that I think about it, maybe it's overly simplistic, is just what is the best outcome for my client? But that takes into account a lot of different factors. One of those factors in this case would include the sort of shifting landscape and college athletics and how all of these things are rapidly evolving and there's a lot of uncertainty. And so the best outcome for my client, you know, was to preserve as much flexibility and optionality as they possibly could going into the future.

They obviously needed to address the immediate concern, which was getting control of the board of directors and making sure the 10 weren't able to get control, because that would eliminate options. We thought they would probably or very likely dissolve the conference so that they could distribute the assets before they left. So there were a lot of different factors we were trying to basically weigh and assess to get to the best outcome for our client.
So I look at every case as, what's the best outcome I can help achieve?

This was a fight that burned hot but ultimately pretty briefly — what can you tell me about how the settlement materialized?

Once it was clear through the preliminary injunction that we were going to be in charge, of course our goal shifted to trying to find a way to resolve this. And I think that was the same for the other 10.

It's a very complicated negotiation any time you've got these 12 institutions and the conference involved. But I think the preliminary injunction at least gave everybody clarity on what would happen if there wasn't a settlement, because in that case, we would obviously be the only two board members. But we were certainly mindful of the fact that even with the preliminary injunction in place, there could be other litigation filed elsewhere, or this could really sprawl into an even bigger mess.