The University of California announced on Thursday that it will scrutinize the release of UCLA’s Pac-12 and release a public report on the impact on student-athletes and the ripple effect on UC Berkeley and other campuses.
The reconsideration request came from the UCLA Board of Regents and Gov. Gavin Newsom, who demanded an explanation from UCLA regarding its planned move in August 2024 after he attended Wednesday’s closed meeting of Regents on the matter in San Francisco. He expressed concern about what he sees as a lack of transparency on the part of UCLA, which briefed UCLA President Michael V. Drake on his conversations with G-10 officials but did not consult with the Regents. Only a few UC Regents were notified immediately before the decision was announced.
UC Berkeley — the only UC Berkeley campus to be left behind in a weakened conference without UCLA and USC — is likely to take a big financial hit.
“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.”
UCLA’s decision—along with USC—to leave the Pac-12 conference and move into the Big Ten 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 core player in the rapidly changing college sports landscape.
UCLA and UC Berkeley declined to comment on the matter.
Drake’s office will conduct and publicly present its findings and recommendations to the Regents by August 17th.
The report will assess several key areas.
First, the Regents requested information on the impact of the Pac-12 move on the culture, operations, and finances of UCLA and other UCLA campuses.
UCLA is set to make big headway by touting its move to the Big Ten as a huge boost for its male and female athletes. In addition to being able to compete for national titles in all sports and generate media attention, the conference changes will help secure the financial future of the sports department, which is facing an unprecedented $102.8 million deficit.
A new Big Ten media rights deal, including USC and UCLA, expected to bring in more than $1 billion, could more than double the annual payout the Bruins would have received by staying in the Pac-12. In addition, the move saves UCLA from a doomsday scenario it could potentially face – eliminating some Olympic sports teams – due to limited resources.
But the Regents also want to know how things are going on other UC campuses. UC Berkeley is bracing for the loss of millions in media revenue from a new TV deal in two years, which is likely to be far less profitable without USC, UCLA and the huge Southern California market.
While UCLA sees the Big Ten as a way to protect its Olympic sports, Berkeley will have to look for new ways to do the same as its football revenue and general decline in conference television media rights decline. It’s not clear if Pac-12 can arrange a merger or partnership with the Big 12 or the Atlantic Coast Conference that could cushion that blow.
UCLA’s move to the “Big Ten” could also impact other UCLA schools outside of Pac-12, including “Big West” members in Davis, Irvine, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. They often depend on the chance to schedule UCLA and USC to improve their standings, generate home visitation income, and limit non-competition travel expenses. It would probably still be an option.
The Regents also want to know how this move will affect UCLA student-athletes, including how the campus plans to address issues related to travel, competition scheduling, and academic support.
As part of the Big Ten, UCLA student-athletes will participate in the nation’s only coast-to-coast-spanning conference, boosting recruiting efforts and increasing their ability to secure lucrative name, image, and image deals. But long distances and difference in time zones can affect their health and academic performance.
Finally, UC will examine the Regents Policy, which allows each university to oversee its athletics activities, and propose recommendations for policy changes needed to ensure “proper oversight of major sports-related decisions.”
Newsom and the Legislature do not have the power to terminate the UCLA deal because the UCLA system is constitutionally autonomous. In 1991, the UC President’s office delegated authority to campus chancellors to execute their own contracts, including intercollegiate athletic agreements.
But Board of Trustees chairman Richard Leib told The Times on Wednesday that the delegation of authority “didn’t necessarily expect this kind of action.”
“The Regents have had questions since this was announced and this week’s meeting was our first opportunity to get together and discuss our concerns,” Leib said in a statement Thursday. “We appreciate what we heard from the governor and share his passion for this topic. We look forward to acting on the advice that UCOP will provide by August 17th.”
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