WESTWOOD, Calif. — UCLA is officially moving into the Big Ten after receiving approval from the University of California regents on Wednesday, but the approval comes with conditions.
More than five months after the Bruins, along with USC, announced their shock intent to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024, the UC Board of Regents chairman and UCOP president recommended allowing UCLA to continue his move to the Big Ten in a special meeting Wednesday on the UCLA campus. The board of regents approved the move by a vote of 11 to 5.
“We looked at the reality of where we are and what the alternatives were,” said Rich Leib, chairman of the Board of Regents. “And I think in the end we’ve decided it’s best to do the way we’ve done it, which are conditions, but let them go.”
As part of the board’s decision, UCLA will need to increase its projected investment in student-athlete resources and may need to provide a grant to the University of California, Berkeley in the range of $2 million to $10 million once a Pac-12 media deal is secured, depending on the amount of the deal. A UC spokesperson said the $2-$10 million grant to UC Berkeley would be an annual payment.
The board included other terms 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 Regents, the grant to UC Berkeley would be “to improve student-athlete support on that campus.”
“Berkeley has really taken a hit with UCLA’s departure,” said Leib. “They suffered quite a bit. We don’t know how much, but we felt it was important … that we may not make Berkeley whole in some way, but at least help them in that situation.”
Leib said the board may revisit the issue once the Pac-12 closes a media deal.
“We are excited to participate in the Big Ten Conference in 2024 and are grateful for the thoughtful involvement of the Board of Regents in this decision,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said after the decision. “We have always been guided by what is best for our 25 teams and more than 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. to show. “
At four meetings between last July and December, the Regents discussed and considered input and research related to the move. In September, UC Regents general counsel Charles Robinson said the board had the authority to block the move. The board was expected to announce a decision in November, but postponed it and called a special meeting for Wednesday to answer more questions and make a final decision.
According to a regent document, the board wanted more information and research regarding the additional resources that would be required to improve the student-athlete experience as part of the move.
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren expressed his gratitude to the UC regents “for respecting UCLA’s decision” to switch conferences.
“The landscape of collegiate athletics is evolving, and the Big Ten Conference is in a stable and strong position with unparalleled opportunities, exposure and resources for our member institutions and student-athletes,” Warren said in a prepared statement. “With the collective goals of prioritizing the health and well-being of our student-athletes and continuing our academic and athletic mission under the umbrella of higher education, we will continue our methodical integration process of UCLA and USC into the Big Ten continue conference.”
The move to the Big Ten has had its detractors, including UCLA alum Bill Walton and the National College Players Association – run by former UCLA football player Ramogi Huma – who opposed rescheduling last week, citing the effect the extra trip would have. have on the academic and mental health of students.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ had also expressed her displeasure, saying the move would help professionalize athletics at the university. UC Berkeley is the school most affected by the move from UCLA. The sister schools are now separating, and a Pac-12 without USC and UCLA’s Los Angeles market likely lowers the value of an upcoming media rights deal.
Prior to that aforementioned November meeting, UCLA provided the Regents with a document detailing the school’s financial plans for travel, academic support, mental health, nutrition and other areas surrounding the conference move, as well as a survey of 111 athletes with their views about switching competitions. . The school has said it plans to spend an additional $10 million on athlete resources because of the move.
On Wednesday, the board directed UCLA to provide additional annual funds for student-athlete support as a condition of its move to the Big Ten.
“We actually added more, so all told, we have between 11 and 12 million improvements,” Leib said. The official number is between $11.03 and 12.20 million.
Those improvements include providing approximately $6.3 million in academic support, nutritional support and mental health care for all student-athletes. Approximately $4.3 million will be spent on food, requiring on-campus breakfast and lunch for all UCLA athletes, professional dietician services, and nutritious meals while they travel.
“You’re not playing [Rutgers] every week,” Jarmond said at a Sports Business Journal conference in Las Vegas last week. In general, it’s not that much. The benefits far outweigh those challenges.”
Plagued by $62.5 million in debt, according to the Los Angeles Times, UCLA has said it would be in line to earn up to $70 million annually 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.
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff said in Las Vegas last week that the conference would await the regents’ decision before moving forward with a media deal. The Pac-12 is the only conference without a deal, and Kliavkoff repeatedly expressed optimism about closing a lucrative deal in the first quarter of 2023, which Kliavkoff said would be followed by exploring expansion.
“We don’t know at this point what will happen to the PAC 12,” Leib said. “They got hurt by USC and then UCLA who made this [move] …but really USC was the first. There’s some evidence that it could be a really strong media contract that they end up getting that would make Berkeley a lot better, so maybe that’s why the pay would be much lower. It just depends, it’s really hard to know. So we wanted to give ourselves a wide range.”