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Newsom demands UCLA to publicly explain Pac-12 exit deal

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday demanded that UCLA explain how Pac-12’s exit from the Big Ten will benefit all of its student-athletes and respect its relationship with UC Berkeley, the only UCLA campus who will be left behind and likely to take a major financial hit in a conference weakened by big-name defections.

“The first duty of every public university is to the people, especially the students,” Newsom said in a statement. “UCLA needs to make it clear to the public how this deal will improve the experience for all its student-athletes will honor their century-old partnership with UC Berkeley and preserve the history, rivalries and traditions that enrich our communities.”

Newsom unusually appeared Wednesday at a meeting of the board of trustees of the University of California, San Francisco, where he is an ex officio member, to join a closed discussion on the matter.

UCLA’s decision—along with USC—to leave the Pac-12 conference in August 2024 left Cal and the other remaining conference teams facing the threat of losing millions in media rights revenue, not to mention the viability of survivals as a major player. in the rapidly changing college sports landscape.

UCLA and UC Berkeley declined to comment on the matter.

Last month, when UCLA announced its move to the Big Ten, UCLA President Gene Block and Athletic Director Martin Jarmond touted the move’s ability to secure the financial future of a sports department facing an unprecedented $102.8 million deficit. dollars.

The expected windfall from the new Big Ten media rights deal, which is expected to bring in more than $1 billion, could be more than double the annual payout the Bruins would have received by staying in the Pac-12 while saving school from the end of the world. The scenario – the liquidation of some Olympic sports teams – could potentially face inactivity with limited resources.

As part of the Big Ten, UCLA looks to capitalize on increased media coverage by participating in the nation’s only coast-to-coast-spanning conference, ramping up recruitment efforts and empowering its athletes to secure lucrative name deals. pictures and images.

UCLA and USC are also joining the conference as a fitting follow-up to the vibrant Southeast Conference. The Big Ten have placed one team in the college football playoffs in six of the eight years since the series debuted in 2014. Pac-12 has fallen far behind, sending only two teams to the playoffs and none since Washington in 2016.

The Bruins and Trojans are expected to delight their fans with earlier kickoff times for football due to joining the conference with counterparts in the Central and Eastern Time Zones. This will eliminate late starts that kept local viewers up until close to midnight and limit screenings to other parts of the country where viewers have already gone to bed.

As governor, Newsom does not have the power to terminate the deal because the UC system is constitutionally autonomous. As regent, he could ask his fellow councilors to consider directives to UCLA about the deal—for example, explain it at a public meeting or suggest ways to mitigate the financial impact on UC Berkeley. In 1991, the UC President’s office delegated authority to campus chancellors to execute their own contracts, including intercollegiate athletic agreements.

Newsom understands UCLA’s benefits and its right to make a deal, but is concerned about its performance as a public university that must be transparent and accountable, according to Ben Chida, the governor’s chief education adviser.

“It’s more than sports and more than money,” Chida said, describing Newsom’s outlook. “It’s about public trust. It is about the mental health of the student-athlete. And it’s about honoring partnerships, history and traditions that have lasted a century.”

UCLA President Michael W. Drake was aware of UCLA’s conversations with G-10 officials. But then the regents were not consulted, and only a “handful” were notified just before the decision was announced and ordered to keep it secret, said Board of Regents chairman Richard Leib. UCLA made the decision “in accordance with delegated authority, which did not necessarily involve this sort of action,” Leib said.

While any discussions need to be carefully guarded given the sensitivity of the negotiations, Newsom would like to see a process that would include a meeting with the Regents, perhaps in a closed session where UCLA could lay out the proposed deal, explain the direct benefit. student-athletes, and solicited ideas on how to mitigate damage to UC Berkeley and other conference attendees, Chida said.

Ideas put forward included demanding that UCLA pay UC Berkeley a Pac-12 “exit fee” or share television revenue with a sister campus, conditions that could potentially be imposed by Regents.

UC Berkeley is poised for a multi-million dollar success once UCLA and USC exit the Pac-12 conference in two years, which will likely result in a huge loss in media revenue under the new TV deal.

The campus has been struggling with structural deficits for years. Berkeley first posted a $150 million deficit in 2016, which it successfully closed, but faced an even bigger hole of $340 million last year due to catastrophic losses in student housing, food and other sources of income, as well as increased spending during a pandemic. The campus has balanced its budget this year after halting investments in lab renovations, deferred maintenance and other needs.

Chida noted that Newsom had significantly increased funding for the University of California, recently fought for $500 million for UCLA for a new immunology center, and said he was concerned that the Westwood campus was behaving like a “private media corporation” in their dealings with Pac-12.

Student Regent Marleni Blas Pedral, a law student at UC Berkeley, said the board wants more transparency and communication from UCLA. She said she learned about the Pac-12’s release from the media.

“This one decision affects all 10 UC campuses; their decisions affect more than just their student-athletes,” she said. “I think that in the end it will affect other sports, other athletes, other campuses, not only now, but also in 10.5 years.

“I think UCLA should definitely do something to mitigate the potential harm that could result from this,” she said, adding that she’s not yet “100% sure” that it should to be.


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