UCLA 'must clearly explain' Big Ten decision, California Gov. Gavin Newsom demands

UCLA ‘must clearly explain’ Big Ten decision, California Gov. Gavin Newsom demands

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling for UCLA to give a public explanation on the school’s decision to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten alongside crosstown rival USC in 2024. Newsom contends that UCLA, a member of the nine-campus University of California system, owes it to the public to explain how the realignment decision will better its student-athletes in addition to how it will maintain long-lasting traditions and partnerships, such as that with fellow Pac-12 member UC Berkley.

“The first duty of every public university is to the people, especially students,” Newsom said at a University of California Board of Regents meeting Wednesday, via the Los Angeles Times. “UCLA must clearly explain to the public how this deal will improve the experience for all its student-athletes, will honor its century-old partnership with UC Berkeley, and will preserve the histories, rivalries, and traditions that enrich our communities.”

Newsom, who oversees and appoints the University of California system board of regents, previously said in an interview with FOX 11 Los Angeles that UCLA officials gave no advance warning to the board of regents regarding the Big Ten decision. Newsom described the decision as being “done in isolation” and without “oversight or support” from the regents.

“I read about it (is how I found out),” Newsom said in the interview. “No big deal. I’m the governor of the state of California. But maybe a bigger deal is that I’m the chair of the UC Board of Regents. I read about it. Is it a good idea? Did we have a chance to discuss the merits or demerits (of the decision)? I’m not aware anyone did. So it was done in isolation. It was done without regental oversight or support. It was done without any consideration to my knowledge.”

Newsom, in the FOX 11 interview, proceeded to call out the Bruins athletic department for lacking the “decency to provide a heads up”and vowed that the UC regents would continue to investigate the matter.

“Perhaps there was deep, deep conversation with other presidents, or rather, chancellors and presidents in the system,” Newsom added. “And (there is) the impact more broadly, not just to the UC system but to other universities including Stanford and basically the Cal State system … I have strong opinions about this for no other reason than that as a member of the regents, we were never consulted, never asked for an opinion, and they didn’t even have the decency to provide a heads up. Trust me when I say this: We are not going to be looking into. We are already looking into it within (and have been) minutes after reading about this in the newspaper.”

While money and television contracts are the driving force behind conference realignment, the financial boost that UCLA is set to receive by joining the Big Ten is one desperately needed by the athletic department. The LA Times reported earlier in July that the Bruins athletic department accrued $102.8 million in debt in the last three fiscal years and was at series risk of cutting sports. But by joining the Big Ten, the Bruins will move to a league that could see payouts surpassing $100 million per year within the next decade.

Top UCLA officials, including athletic director Martin Jarmond, said in a June 30 statement that the Big Ten move will ensure UCLA’s long-term ability to support and sustain various athletic programs, even at the expense of increased travel given UCLA and USC’s position as West Coast teams in a league centered the Midwest.

“Entry into the Big Ten will also help ensure that UCLA preserves and maintains all 25 current teams and more than 700 student-athletes in our program,” the statement read in part. “Additionally, it means enhanced resources for all of our teams, from academic support to mental health and wellness. And although this move increases travel distances for teams, the resources offered by Big Ten membership may allow for more efficient transportation options. We would also explore scheduling accommodations with the Big Ten that best support our student-athletes’ academic pursuits.”

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USC and UCLA are not the first set of long-standing NCAA rivals to announce a move to a new conference within the past year. Texas and Oklahoma, founding members of the Big 12 Conference, announced last summer they will leave the Big 12 for the SEC in 2025 in a move that set off the latest wave of conference realignment.

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