Newsom conveniently forgets his role in UCLA’s Big Ten move

When Gov. Gavin Newsom joined LeBron James and his cast to sign into law California’s historic Fair Pay to Play Act on James’ HBO show The Shop nearly three years ago, Newsom was more than happy to discover the truth about the say college sports. In fact, he seemed downright dizzy.

“The jig is up,” Newsom said on Sept. 30, 2019. “Billions and billions of dollars, over $14 billion going to these universities, over a billion in revenue going to the NCAA itself and the people who are putting their lives on the line , risk everything, get nothing.”

Newsom correctly predicted that Senate Bill 206, which for the first time allowed California collegiate athletes to benefit from the use of their name, likeness and likeness (NIL), would trigger a spate of similar legislation across the country and would force the NCAA to step in and change the “power arrangement” between player and school forever.

Maverick Carter, James’ longtime friend, asked the governor who was the biggest opponent of the bill.

“School presidents,” Newsom said without hesitation. “They don’t even outsource the phone calls. ‘What the hell are you doing to destroy college sports?’ … ‘You destroy the purity of dilettantism.’ Not once have you spoken about the needs of these children.”

Just before signing the law into law, Newsom was smug when he said: “I don’t want to say this is checkmate. But this is a big problem for the NCAA.”

When UCLA dropped the Pac-12 conference and UC Berkeley system mate three weeks ago for the Big Ten, the big business of collegiate sports suddenly became a big problem for Gavin Newsom.

Or at least that’s how he played it Wednesday when he blasted UCLA’s handling of the Pac-12 exit, saying the public university was unacceptably secretive and disregarding the damage the move would bring to Berkeley and other league members . Once again showing a penchant for the dramatic, he made an unusual appearance at the UC Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco to participate in the Board of Regents’ closed discussion on the subject.

“The first duty of any public university is the people — especially the students,” Newsom said. “UCLA must communicate clearly to the public how this deal will enhance the experience for all of its student-athletes, honor its century-old partnership with UC Berkeley, and preserve the histories, rivalries, and traditions that enrich our communities.”

Newsom is now taking the banner of the same university presidents he shrugged off when it suited him on the high-profile NIL issue, the same university leaders who had to watch their athletic departments in pursuit of the almighty soccer dollar and looked the other way when themselves donations from proud alumni piled up.

Thanks to the peculiar experimentation of American college sports, much of these donors’ pride over the years has been based, at least in part, on the athletic achievements of their alma mater and the pleasure of bragging about a rival.

Yet the presidents of every California Pac-12 school have lobbied strongly against NIL because they feared – rightly – that college athletes receiving money of any kind, including from third parties and not from the schools themselves, would inevitably lead to a full Professionalizing players would be classified as employees and would share directly in the revenue they helped generate.

Of course, they called Newsom in a panic at the time. They also knew that the device was about to get up.

Newsom did the right thing by signing the NIL Act. History will applaud him for it. But now pretending it’s a shock that UCLA athletics would stab the UC system and its Pac-12 brethren in the back for potentially over $70 million in annual revenue and more than Wiping out $100 million in debt is disingenuous and an intellectual affront to taxpayers and voters.

If Newsom wants to have a more nuanced conversation, he should know that NIL’s future and the evolution of athlete pay played a major role in why USC and UCLA knew they had to leave the faltering Pac-12 for the Big Ten , which is in the process of negotiating a media rights package said to be well over $1 billion with the addition of the Los Angeles schools.

Already, here in California, there is a petition to the National Labor Relations Board demanding that USC and UCLA athletes be classified as employees in the income-generating sports – a notion endorsed by NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo. We can expect that the move from USC and UCLA to the Big Ten, which require athletes to take frequent cross-country trips to simultaneously juggle their studies, will only reinforce the argument that because of the University finances are treated differently than ordinary student benefits.

It could take months, years, or a decade to get there, but once college football and men’s basketball players are employees, they’ll collectively bargain for a share of the revenue, making the budgets of the athletic departments that depend on it strong Fortune from these sports will strain to fund their non-revenue teams.

USC and UCLA leaders — the same ones who tried to persuade Newsom not to sign the NIL Act — were prescient enough to see they had no choice but to get their hands in the Midwest money pot stuck if they wanted to keep Trojans football fans and Bruins basketball fans happily counting on national championship fights in the long run.

Cal and many other schools across the country that don’t receive an invite to the Big Ten or Southeastern Conference have to make big decisions about whether to follow the college sports model as a professional sport when they simply don’t have the revenue or the conference’s position to no longer compete at the highest level.

So much of it is sad, but there is no way around it because capitalism is doing its thing. USC and UCLA got their chance to stay in the game and took it like any other Pac-12 school.

Newsom should revisit his talking points from 2019. He wanted to weaken the NCAA, and he certainly achieved that goal. But it’s almost as if he forgot that a weakened NCAA means a weakened UC system.

Newsom in 2019 saw the situation clearly. This is the bed that university presidents have made for themselves for the past four decades, and now it’s all messy. It’s not the governor’s job to clean this up. Newsom conveniently forgets his role in UCLA’s Big Ten move

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