Newsom demands that UCLA publicly explain deal to leave the Pac-12

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday asked UCLA to explain how its Pac-12 exit for the Big Ten will benefit all of its student-athletes and honor its relationship with UC Berkeley — the only UC campus left behind and likely great financial success in a conference weakened by big-name defectors.

“The first duty of every public university is to the people — especially the students,” Newsom said in a statement. “UCLA needs to clearly explain to the public how this deal will improve the experience Everyone its student-athletes, will honor its century-old partnership with UC Berkeley and preserve the histories, rivalries and traditions that enrich our communities.”

Newsom made an unusual appearance Wednesday at the UC Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco, where he is serving as an ex-officio member to participate in the board’s closed-door discussion on the issue.

UCLA’s decision — along with USC — to exit the Pac-12 conference in August 2024 has left Cal and other remaining conference teams reeling at the risk of losing millions in media rights revenue, let alone the Profitability of Holdovers as a Key Player in the Rapidly Changing College Sports Landscape.

UCLA and UC Berkeley have declined to comment on the issue.

Last month, as UCLA announced its migration to the Big Ten, University Chancellor Gene Block and athletic director Martin Jarmond touted the possibility of securing the financial future of an athletic department facing an unprecedented $102.8 million deficit.

The anticipated windfall from a new media rights deal with the Big Ten – expected to fetch over $1 billion – could more than double the annual payout the Bruins would have received had they stayed in the Pac-12, and at the same time save the school from a doomsday scenario – the elimination of some Olympic sports teams – that may face reduced resources.

As part of the Big Ten, UCLA expects to benefit from increased media exposure while attending the country’s only coast-to-coast conference, ramping up recruiting efforts and improving its athletes’ ability to secure lucrative name, image and and conclude agreements of similarity.

UCLA and USC also attend a conference that has proven a worthy foil for the charged Southeastern Conference. The Big Ten have placed a team in the college football playoffs in six out of eight years since the series debuted in 2014. The Pac-12 was far behind, sending only two teams to the playoffs and none since Washington in 2016.

The Bruins and Trojans are also expected to please their fanbases with the earlier football kick-off times necessitated by attending a conference with peers in the Central and Eastern time zones. This will eliminate late starts that kept local viewers up until almost midnight and limited exposure in other parts of the country where viewers had already gone to bed.

Newsom is aware of the benefits to UCLA and its right to go ahead with the deal, but is concerned about its actions as a public university with obligations to be transparent and accountable, according to Ben Chida, the governor’s principal advisor on education.

“It’s about more than sport and more than money,” describes Chida Newsom’s views. “It’s about public trust. It’s about the mental health of students and athletes. And it’s about honoring the partnerships, stories and traditions that have endured over a century.”

UC President Michael V. Drake was aware of UCLA’s discussions with representatives of the Big Ten. But the Regents were not consulted at the time and only a “handful” were notified shortly before the decision was announced and asked to keep it confidential, Council of Regency Chair Rich Leib said. UCLA made the decision “under broad delegated authority that did not necessarily anticipate these types of actions,” Leib said.

While all discussions absolutely needed to be closely monitored given the sensitivity of the negotiations, Newsom would have liked to see a process that included meeting with Regents, possibly in closed session, at which UCLA could have outlined the proposed deal, explaining the direct benefit to students athletes and asked for ideas on how to mitigate the damage to UC Berkeley and other conference members, Chida said.

Ideas raised included that UCLA must pay UC Berkeley an “exit fee” for Pac-12 or share television earnings with its sister campus — conditions the Regents could potentially impose.

UC Berkeley is gearing up for a multimillion-dollar hit once UCLA and USC exit the Pac-12 conference in two years’ time, which will likely result in a huge loss of media revenue under a new TV deal.

The campus has been struggling with a structural deficit for years. Berkeley first announced a $150 million shortfall in 2016, which it successfully closed, only to end with a larger $340 million hole last year due to crippling revenue losses from student housing, food and other sources, and increased costs during the pandemic to be confronted. The campus finally balanced its budget this year after suspending investment in lab renovations, deferred maintenance, and other needs.

Chida noted that Newsom had significantly increased funding for UC and recently fought to give UCLA $500 million for a new immunology center, and was concerned that the Westwood campus was moving into its Pac-12 – Doing business like a “private media company”.

Times staffer Ben Bolch contributed to this report.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-20/newsom-demands-ucla-explain-pac-12-exit Newsom demands that UCLA publicly explain deal to leave the Pac-12

Alley Einstein

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