In letter, Pac-12’s George Kliavkoff cites ‘significant’ financial, mental health concerns on UCLA move to Big Ten

In a letter to the University of California’s Board of Regents ahead of a closed session Thursday to discuss UCLA’s planned move to the Big Ten conference, Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff detailed “significant concerns” about the he experienced with the move, including its impact on student and athlete mental health, increased travel and operating costs, and negative impacts on both Cal’s revenue and the UC system’s climate goals.

According to a source, Klivakoff’s letter was delivered in response to a request from the Regents for the conference’s perspective on UCLA’s move.

“Despite all the explanations given after the fact, UCLA’s decision to join the Big Ten was clearly financially motivated after the UCLA athletic department managed to rack up more than $100 million in debt over the past three fiscal years,” wrote Kliavkoff.

He said the increased revenue UCLA will receive will be fully offset by higher costs from additional travel, the need for competitive salaries within the Big Ten and spending on match guarantees.

“UCLA currently spends approximately $8.1 million per year on its teams traveling to attend the Pac-12 conference,” Kliavkoff said. “UCLA will increase its team travel expenses by 100% if it flies commercially in the Big Ten ($8.1 million per year), 160% if it charters half the time ($13.1 million per year) and by 290%. increase if it charters every flight ($23 million increase per year).”

Kliavkoff did not cite how those numbers were calculated, or whether it really was believed that UCLA would consider charter trips for teams other than football and basketball.

According to a source familiar with UCLA’s internal estimates, the school expects to spend about $6-10 million more a year traveling in the Big Ten than the Pac-12.

Moving to the Big Ten, Kliavkoff speculated, would also result in UCLA spending more on salaries to meet conference norms. He estimates that UCLA would need to increase its athletic department salaries by about $15 million for the university to reach the Big Ten average.

“Any financial gain that UCLA will make from joining the Big Ten will ultimately go to airlines and charter companies, administrators’ and coaches’ salaries and other recipients, rather than providing additional resources to student-athletes,” Kliavkoff said.

A spokesman for UCLA declined to comment.

UC President Michael V. Drake, who was previously Ohio State President, said in an interview with The New York Times, “No decisions. I think everyone collects information. It’s an evolving situation.”

Aside from the financial implications for UCLA, which is widely believed to be a driving factor behind the proposed move, Kliavkoff said it will also hurt Cal, which is also part of the UC system. With media rights negotiations ongoing, Kliavkoff said it’s difficult to reveal the exact implications without disclosing confidential information, but confirmed the Pac-12 is soliciting bids with and without UCLA.

Beyond the financial component of the additional trip, Kliavkoff said that “published media research from the National Institutes of Health, studies from the NCAA, and discussions with our own student-athlete leaders” indicate that the move will have a negative impact on student-athletes’ mental health health and away from their academic activities. He added that having to face cross-country travel to see UCLA’s teams play would also be a strain on family and alumni.

Finally, Kliavkoff said additional travel contradicts the UC system’s climate goals and counteracts UCLA’s commitment to be “carbon neutral” by 2025. In letter, Pac-12’s George Kliavkoff cites ‘significant’ financial, mental health concerns on UCLA move to Big Ten

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