More than five months after UCLA announced its intention to move to the Big Ten in 2024, the decision still isn’t final.
On Wednesday, the UC Board of Regents — the 26-member board that presides over all UC campuses — will announce its response. It has three options: allow the move unfettered, impose a tax, or prevent it altogether.
- Regents have been discussing the move in four meetings between July and December, considering stakeholder input and dozens of pages of research.
- The board had intended to announce its decision during a meeting in November, but postponed it for a special meeting on Wednesday.
- The board requested additional information about the resources it would require to improve athletes’ experiences, according to a Regents document.
If UCLA is allowed to move, it can earn up to $70 million annually in media rights and provide more exposure to athletic programs. But athletes will face increased travel time and, in some cases, competition. To offset these issues, UCLA said it will spend an extra $10 million on athlete resources.
If the school can’t join the Big Ten, it will remain in a conference with an undetermined — but surely less lucrative — media rights package. It will also be separated from its marquee rival in USC. But there will be no extra travel burden on teams.
Several prominent stakeholders have come out against the move.
UC Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ, for example, said she didn’t believe that realignment moves such as this would be positive for the athlete experience, because they furthered the “professionalization” of college sports.
But Christ has her own motivation, as Berkeley would suffer a direct financial hit without UCLA, since the school boosts the Pac-12’s overall media rights package. This could be partially rectified by a subsidy from UCLA to Berkeley.
In a survey of 111 UCLA athletes, only 35% said they supported the move — though only 7% opposed it. The rest didn’t have an opinion to share.
The National College Players Association, though — run by former UCLA football player and longtime athlete advocate Ramogi Huma, — came out against conference realignment last week.
In a letter, the NCPA said that athletes’ academic and mental health would suffer due to the increased strain of being in the Big Ten — so that a few athletic department officials could get bigger paychecks.
“The Regents should not let a handful of people sell the soul of the UCLA athletics program for TV dollars that will be spent on luxury boxes in stadiums and lavish salaries for a few,” the organization’s letter to the Regents read.
The Regents will consider all these factors at Wednesday’s meeting, which will take place in two parts.
The board will first meet for a session closed to the public to discuss “litigation risks,” according to a meeting document. Then, it will host an open session to further discuss — and ultimately hand down a ruling.