UCLA’s decision to head for the Big Ten may have been out of necessity.
When the school announced it would depart the Pac-12, some fans didn’t understand the decision. As it turns out, the Bruins were on the brink of having fewer sports to cheer on.
UCLA’s athletic department racked up $102.8 million in debt over the last three fiscal years, potentially forcing it to cut Olympic sports programs altogether.
- The school has 25 teams and more than 700 athletes.
- It’s unclear how many teams would have been affected or when.
“When your program is in significant debt, it’s difficult just to maintain, never mind to invest,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said. “This not only preserves the programs now — which was not a given — but also will allow us to invest in them.”
In the Big Ten, UCLA could close that deficit if it earns $100 million per year from the conference’s projected $1 billion media rights deal in 2024. The conference’s current deal, worth $440 million annually, expires in 2023.
Apple has reportedly restarted media talks with the Big Ten after UCLA and USC announced their plans. Fox Sports already has a deal for at least half the conference’s games, and CBS is reportedly eyeing a package that includes Saturday afternoon games.
Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah are reportedly in discussions with the Big 12 about joining, with Oregon and Washington also potentially eyeing a Pac-12 departure. A Pac-12 and Big 12 merger hasn’t been ruled out, either.