Newsom Demands UCLA Defend Ditching PAC 12 for Big Ten

Governor Newsom wants to know if the UCLA Bruins are moving to the Chicago-based conference for the blue and gold, or for the green

Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling out UCLA on its decision to leave the PAC 12 for the more illustrious Big Ten, asking the school to explain how moving to the Chicago-based conference will benefit its student-athletes. 

In a statement released Wednesday, Newsom touts the neighborly bond between UC schools, urging UCLA to consider how the deal “will honor its century-old partnership with UC Berkeley, and will preserve the histories, rivalries, and traditions that enrich our communities.”

The move, announced in June, is set to take effect in August of 2024.

Joining the UCLA Bruins in its cross-country journey to the Big Ten is local rival USC. Both USC and UCLA have been members of the PAC 12 and its various iterations since the 1920s. 

In a statement released by UCLA in June, Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond wrote: 

For the past century, decisions about UCLA Athletics have always been guided by what is best for our student-athletes, first and foremost, and our fans… Big Ten membership offers Bruins exciting new competitive opportunities and a broader national media platform for our student-athletes to compete and showcase their talents. For our fans, Big Ten membership equates to better television time slots for our road games, but the same number of home games either at the Rose Bowl, in Pauley Pavilion or other UCLA venues.” 

This deal also means big money for the Bruins, whose athletic department is currently facing a $102.8 million deficit. As it stands, the Big Ten TV contract pays out over $10 million dollars more to each school than the latest Pac-12 deal. And as the Los Angeles Times notes, a new Big Ten media rights deal is predicted to yield in excess of $1 billion, potentially doubling UCLA’s payout. 

Other financial implications are already playing out. John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal reported that Apple TV has reopened negotiations with the Big Ten following the announcement of USC and UCLA joining the conference.

Ben Chida, Governor Newsom’s principal advisor on education, says, “It’s about more than sports and more than money. It’s about public trust. It’s about student-athlete mental health.”

That said, Newsom and Chida are well aware that the LA schools’ exit will be a big financial hit to the other PAC 12 schools, amounting to the loss of multiple millions of dollars. 

Gov. Newsom seems particularly concerned for UC Berkeley, which will be the only UC school remaining in the PAC 12. Like UCLA, Berkeley is struggling with a major deficit following the pandemic. The Golden Bears experienced a whopping $340 million loss in revenue last year. 

LA lawyer and UCLA alum, Mark Kobata, 71, told LAmag, “[Newsom] can’t nix the deal, but he can cause a lot of turmoil with the Regents. UCLA may have to give Cal some of their money, which will hurt given the current deficit we have.” 

In an unusual move, Gov. Newsom showed up at a closed-door meeting of the UC Board of Regents in San Francisco Wednesday to discuss the issue. According to the Times, there was talk about requiring UCLA to pay Berkeley an exit “fee” or share its TV revenue with the fellow UC school. 

Student Regent Marlenee Blas Pedral, a UC Berkeley law student, told the Times, “UCLA should definitely do something to help mitigate some of the potential harm that’s going to come out of this.” She was unsure of exactly how UCLA should repay the loss of revenue. 

The move raises another concern for some college football fans who worry that the SEC and Big Ten will become superconferences, with the best TV Deals, recruits, and 20 of the best teams in the country, detracting from the regional appeal of college sports. 

In recent years, the gap between the SEC and Big Ten and all other conferences has widened, both in recruiting and TV deals. While the Big Ten has been represented in the College Football Playoff six times since 2014, the PAC 12 has only sent two teams to the tournament in that time and none since 2016.

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