UC regents order review of UCLA’s Pac-12 exit

The University of California announced Thursday that it would review UCLA’s Pac-12 phase-out and issue a public report on the impact on student-athletes and the impact on UC Berkeley and other campuses.

The request for review came from the UC Board of Regents and Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was demanding an explanation from UCLA about its planned August 2024 move after attending a closed-door regents’ meeting on the matter in San Francisco on Wednesday. He expressed concern about what he sees as a lack of transparency from UCLA, which briefed UC President Michael V. Drake on its discussions with Big Ten officials but did not consult with the Regents. Only a handful of UC Regents were notified shortly before the decision was announced.

UC Berkeley — the only UC campus left without UCLA and USC in a weakened conference — is likely to take a major financial hit.

“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.”

UCLA’s decision — along with USC — to leave the Pac-12 conference for the Big Ten has left Cal and other remaining conference teams reeling at the risk of losing, let alone, millions in media rights revenue the profitability of holdovers as a major player in the rapidly changing collegiate sports landscape.

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

The Office of Drake will implement its findings and recommendations on or before August 17 and present them publicly to the Regent.

The report will assess several main areas.

First, Regents have requested information about the impact of the Pac-12 move on the culture, operations, and finances of UCLA and other UC campuses.

UCLA is poised for big gains and is touting its move into the Big Ten as a huge boost for its male and female athletes. In addition to being able to compete for national titles in all sports and earn high-profile media exposure, the change in conferences will help secure the financial future of an athletic department facing an unprecedented $102.8 million deficit.

A new deal for Big Ten media rights, including USC and UCLA, 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. Also, the move saves UCLA from a doomsday scenario it may face — the elimination of some Olympic sports teams — due to reduced resources.

But Regents also want to know how other UC campuses will fare. UC Berkeley is preparing to lose millions in media revenue two years from now to a new TV deal, which will likely be far less lucrative without USC and UCLA and the huge Southern California market.

While UCLA sees the move of the Big Ten as a way to protect its Olympic sports, Berkeley must look for new ways to do the same as its revenue from football and general conference television media rights dwindle. It’s unclear if the Pac-12 could orchestrate a merger or partnership with the Big 12 or the Atlantic Coast Conference that could soften that blow.

UCLA’s move to the Big Ten could also affect other UC schools outside of the Pac-12 — including Big West members Davis, Irvine, Riverside, Santa Barbara and San Diego. They often rely on the ability to schedule UCLA and USC to improve their standing, generate income from home attendance, and limit travel expenses to non-conference competitions. That would probably still be an option.

Regents also want to know the impact of the move on UCLA’s student-athletes, including the campus’ plans to address issues related to travel, competition schedules and academic support.

As part of the Big Ten, UCLA student-athletes will compete in the country’s only coast-to-coast conference to boost recruiting efforts and improve their ability to land lucrative name, image and likeness deals. But the longer travel distances and time zone differences could impact their health and academic performance.

Finally, UC will examine Regents’ policies, which allow each university to control its athletic operations, and make recommendations on policy changes needed to ensure “appropriate oversight of important decisions related to athletics.”

Newsom and the Legislature have no authority to end the UCLA deal because the UC system is constitutionally autonomous. In 1991, UC’s Office of the President delegated authority to on-campus chancellors to execute their own contracts, including intercollegiate athletic agreements.

But the Chairman of the Board of Regents, Richard Leib, told the Times on Wednesday that the delegation “didn’t necessarily anticipate these kinds of actions”.

“Regents have had questions since the announcement, and this week’s meeting was our first opportunity to come together as a group and discuss our concerns,” Leib said in a statement Thursday. “We really appreciated hearing from the governor and share his passion for the issue. We look forward to implementing the recommendations that UCOP will present by August 17.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-21/uc-regents-ask-for-a-review-of-uclas-controversial-pac-12-exit UC regents order review of UCLA’s Pac-12 exit

Alley Einstein

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