Saturday December 9, 2023

UCLA’s Move To The Big Ten Isn’t A Done Deal After All

  • On Thursday, the Regents will decide whether to block UCLA’s departure from the Pac-12.
  • They’ve conducted a cost-benefit analysis related to revenue, the athlete experience, and the impact on Berkeley.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson raises arms while looking into crowd during college football game
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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UCLA’s move to the Big Ten in 2024 may not be a done deal after all if the UC Board of Regents has anything to say about it. 

The 26-member board, which presides over all University of California schools, will discuss during a meeting on Thursday whether it will block UCLA’s departure from the Pac-12. The ruling will be a culmination of meetings, research, and public statements — some of which have come from the board’s chair, California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Since July, the Board has considered several factors — which were detailed in a publicly available report distributed to board members. 

The first, of course, is money. 

  • UCLA has amassed a $103 million deficit and is in desperate need of extra funding. 
  • In the Big Ten, the school anticipates an increase in ticket and merchandise sales, as well as a lucrative media rights contract that could pay up to $70 million in media rights alone. 
  • The Pac-12’s current deal pays just a fraction of that, though the conference is currently engaged in talks for a new, and hopefully more valuable, package.
  • There are major costs associated with the move, however. UCLA anticipates that it will have increased expenses of $9.15 million-$10.32 million per year in order to provide resources for travel, academics, nutrition, and mental health.

Though the report noted that UCLA believes the Big Ten’s riches “will more than offset these planned enhancements for student-athletes.”

Big Ten Finalizes Landmark Media Rights Deal Worth At Least $7B

The deal is the largest in college sports history.
August 18, 2022

In addition, the report offered a rare window into what some of the athletes themselves think of the move.

  • Of a survey of 111 students, 35% thought the move would be positive, while 7% thought it would be negative. The rest did not have an opinion.
  • Athletes’ biggest concerns were increased travel and missed classes. Almost 50% were concerned about playing games in cold weather.
  • Almost 80% thought that “national exposure” would be a major benefit. More than half also agreed that increased NIL opportunities, athlete resources, and TV opportunities would come from moving the Big Ten.
  • Importantly, however, only 42 of the respondents were from sports that would be significantly impacted by travel.

In a previous meeting, Regents discussed whether to block the move for the benefit of Cal Berkeley, which would be the last remaining UC school in the Pac-12. If UCLA leaves, Berkeley could lose money as the conference’s overall media rights would be devalued — though commissioner George Kliavkoff contends that won’t happen on his watch.

It’s unclear how the board will rule, as there’s pressure on both sides. 

But as The New York Times pointed out, “only a handful of members are conversant in the language of big-time college athletics.” UCLA’s move to the Big Ten could be blocked by a group of people who have no idea how Power 5 athletics actually work.

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