After months of haggling over UCLA’s final decision to join the Big Ten Conference, the University of California regents step aside and allow the start to proceed as planned.
The Regents voted at a meeting Wednesday at UCLA to allow the Bruins to leave the Pacific-12 Conference and join the Big Ten on the condition that they pay a hefty tax at sister school UC California. -Berkeley and take steps to mitigate travel and improve nutrition and mental- health services for student-athletes.
Joining crosstown rival USC as part of an expanded Big Ten that will include 16 teams, the Bruins will help form the country’s premier coast-to-coast conference as well as a foil worthy of the supercharged conference of the South East.
The move scheduled for August 2024 should secure the financial future of a UCLA athletic department swimming in nine figures of debt while avoiding the possibility of cutting Olympic sports teams. In its first year as a Big Ten member, the school is expected to pocket between $65 million and $75 million in media rights revenue, about double what it would have earned by staying in the Pac-12.
UCLA’s bolting for greener pastures while leaving Cal behind as part of a diminished Pac-12 was one reason the move caused massive outcry in political and academic circles. Weeks after the decision was announced on June 30, Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed outrage that UCLA would make such a monumental move without fully disclosing its plans to the regents except UC President Michael V. Drake.
The Regents voted 11-5 to authorize the move. The conditions, outlined in an 11-point list, include up to $12.2 million for travel, school support, nutritional enhancements and mental health services. Adding charter flights and other travel investments will cost between $4.66 million and $5.83 million, with the goal of reducing the travel burden on athletes to levels comparable to their experience in the Pac-12. The agreement also provides $4.3 million for food, requiring on-campus breakfast and lunch for all UCLA athletes, registered dietitian services and nutritious meals during the trip.
The council also approved an amendment that established what the regents called the “Berkeley tax” which will range from $2 million to $10 million subject to council approval. The tax on UCLA would serve as a subsidy for Cal, helping the Bears offset an expected reduction in revenue caused by the Bruins’ departure. Cal is the only other UC university in the Pac-12.
The “Berkeley tax” should be an annual payment, a source not authorized to speak publicly told The Times.
“A lot of people felt it was important that we kind of make Berkeley, not whole, but we at least help them in this situation,” said Richard Leib, chairman of the Board of Regents. “At the end of the day, we are a system, not an individual campus. So it was an unusual situation that happened; we have never had a situation where a decision from one campus had this kind of impact on another campus in our system.
The Regents spent months evaluating the proposed move, as well as their ability to thwart its execution if they chose to do so. At a meeting at UCLA in August, UC system lawyer Charlie Robinson told the regents they retain the power to block the Bruins’ departure even though UCLA chancellor Gene Block had operated. as part of his delegated authority to perform a contract involving his school.
Other critics of the move weighed in, including Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff, UCLA basketball legend Bill Walton and Ramogi Huma, a former Bruins linebacker and executive director of the National College Players Assn. . Among their concerns were increased travel demands for athletes, the abandonment of traditional rivalries, and a lack of beneficiaries besides UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond and a handful of highly paid coaches on the campus.
“The UC Regents are now complicit in the sacrifice of UCLA’s athlete education to raise the salaries of a few people and to gild a few extra facilities,” Huma said in a statement. “Allowing UC Berkeley to join in the financial and academic exploitation of UCLA athletes doesn’t make it any better. UCLA leaders and UC regents have lost their way. UCLA athletes are not the property of the university. They should be treated fairly in the educational and commercial aspects of college sports. This decision does neither.
Since the announcement of the move to the Big Ten, Block and Jarmond have remained steadfast in their belief that joining would strengthen the athletic department by enhancing its brand and increasing its recruiting base, among other benefits.
The Big Ten has pledged to help offset some of UCLA’s increased travel costs by hosting jamborees at neutral venues involving Olympic sports from multiple conference schools, and the Bruins could reduce air travel costs by sharing flights with USC teams.
Block cited increased national exposure for UCLA athletes and stronger competition as additional reasons why joining the Big Ten would benefit the Bruins. The Big Ten has placed eight teams in the college football playoffs since its debut after the 2014 season, compared to only two from the Pac-12 — none since the 2016 season. Additionally, the Big Ten have put nine teams into the basketball tournament NCAA men’s ball this year, compared to just three from the Pac-12.
Jarmond was delighted after the vote, saying: “We have things to plan for, it’s 2024, it’s a bit far off, but we’re excited about it. This is great for UCLA and our student-athletes, in particular. It will really help us. »
In a statement, Jarmond added: “We are grateful for the thoughtful engagement of the Board of Regents in this decision. We’ve always been guided by what’s best for our 25 teams and more than 700 student-athletes, and the Big Ten offers exciting new competitive opportunities on a larger national media platform.
In a rare show of unity between the rivals, UCLA athletes prioritized staying in the same conference with USC over Cal. According to a survey of 111 Bruins athletes conducted by UCLA and the UC President’s Office, 93% said it was important or very important to keep UCLA in the same conference as USC. compared to just 24% who said keeping UCLA and Cal together was coming together. the same level of importance.
With the Regents paving the way for UCLA to join the Big Ten, the Bruins will have plenty of possible new rivals to choose from in the years to come.
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