Board OK’s UCLA to Big Ten, including provisions

WESTWOOD, California — UCLA officially headed into the Top Ten after receiving approval from the governor of the University of California on Wednesday, but that approval comes with conditions.

More than five months after the Bruins, along with USC, announced their surprise intention to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024, the UC board of district heads and the UCOP president recommended allowing UCLA to continue its move into the Big Ten at a special meeting Wednesday on the UCLA campus. . The district council approved the move by an 11-5 vote.

“We see the reality of where we are and what the alternatives are,” said district council chairman Rich Leib. “And I think in the end we just decided that the best thing to do was the way we did it, namely conditions, but let them go.”

As part of the board’s decision, UCLA must increase its expected investment in student-athlete resources and may have to provide subsidies to the University of California, Berkeley in the range of $2 million to $10 million once the Pac-12 media deal is secured, depending on the amount of the deal. A UCOP spokesperson said the frequency of subsidies to UC Berkeley had not been determined.

The board included other requirements for UCLA to address the impact of the move on athletes, including funds for academic support, nutritional support, and mental health services.

According to the letter to the district head, the subsidy to UC Berkeley would “increase student-athlete support on the campus.”

“Berkeley is absolutely devastated by the departure of UCLA,” said Leib. “They suffered a bit. We don’t know how much, but we felt it was important… somehow we made Berkeley, maybe not whole, but at least helped them in that situation.”

Leib said the board was allowed to review the matter once the Pac-12 secured a media agreement.

“We are excited to join the Big Ten Conference in 2024 and grateful for the Board of Regents’ thoughtful involvement in this decision,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a statement following the decision. “We’ve always been guided by what’s best for our 25 teams and over 700 student athletes, and the Big Ten offers exciting new competitive opportunities on a larger, national media platform for our student athletes to compete and showcase their talent.”

During four meetings between July and December, the district heads discussed and considered input and research regarding the move. In September, UC regent general counsel Charles Robinson said the council had the authority to block the move. The board was expected to announce a decision in November but postponed it and convened a special meeting on Wednesday to answer additional questions and provide a final decision.

According to the district head’s document, the council wants more information and research on the additional resources needed to enhance the student-athlete experience as part of the move.

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren thanked the UC district chief “for respecting UCLA’s decision” to change the conference.

“The college athletic landscape is evolving, and the Big Ten Conference is in a position of stability and strength with unparalleled opportunity, exposure, and resources for our member institutions and student-athletes,” Warren said in a prepared statement. “With the collective goal of prioritizing the health and well-being of our student-athletes and furthering our academic and athletic mission under the umbrella of higher education, we will continue our process of methodical integration of UCLA and USC into the Big Ten Conference.”

The move to the Big Ten has had detractors, including UCLA alum Bill Walton and the National College Players Association — run by former UCLA football player Ramogi Huma — who opposed the realignment last week, citing the effect the extra trip would have. academic and mental health of students.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ has also voiced her disapproval, saying the move would further the professionalization of collegiate athletics. UC Berkeley is the school most affected by the UCLA move. The sister schools are now going their separate ways, and the Pac-12 without the USC and UCLA markets in Los Angeles will likely lower the value of the upcoming media rights deal.

Prior to that November meeting, UCLA provided the district head with a document outlining the school’s financial plan for travel, academic support, mental health services, nutrition and other areas around moving the conference, as well as a survey of 111 athletes with their thoughts on switching leagues. . The school said it would spend an additional $10 million in resources for athletes because of the move.

On Wednesday, the board directed UCLA to provide annual additional resources for student-athlete support as a condition for moving into the Top Ten.

“We’re actually adding more to it, so overall we have between 11 and 12 million additional devices,” said Leib. Official figures range from $11.03 million to $12.20 million.

The increase includes providing approximately $6.3 million in academic support, nutritional support and mental health services to all student-athletes. Approximately $4.3 million will go towards food, requiring on-campus breakfasts and lunches for all UCLA athletes, the services of a professional dietitian, and nutritious meals while they travel.

“You’re not playing [Rutgers] every week,” Jarmond said while speaking at the Sports Business Journal conference in Las Vegas last week. “In the grand scheme of things, not that much. The benefits far outweigh the challenges.”

UCLA, which has been plagued by $62.5 million in debt, according to the Los Angeles Times, said it would earn up to $70 million a year in media rights and subsequent exposure. In August, the Big Ten signed a seven-year, $7 billion media deal with Fox, CBS, and NBC. The Pac-12 remains without a TV deal.

Speaking in Las Vegas last week, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said the conference would wait for the district head’s decision before going ahead with the media deal. The Pac-12 is the only conference without a deal, and Kliavkoff has repeatedly expressed optimism to conclude a lucrative deal in the first quarter of 2023, which will be followed, according to Kliavkoff, by exploring expansion.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen with the Pac-12 right now,” said Leib. “They were hurt by USC and then UCLA made this [move] … but actually USC was the first. There are indications that it may be a very strong media contract that they get eventually, which will do Berkeley a lot better, so maybe the payout will be a lot less. It depends, it’s really hard to figure it out. So we want to give ourselves a broad reach.”

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