LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Gavin Newsom is demanding an explanation from UCLA officials about their move to the Big Ten Conference.
Newsom attended Wednesday’s UC Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco. The closed-door meeting was the first since UCLA and Southern California announced on June 30 that the schools would be leaving the Pac-12 Conference for the Big Ten in 2024. USC is a private institution and not part of the UC system.
Newsom – an ex officio member of the Board of Regents – is among others asking how the move will benefit all student-athletes, as well as how to mitigate the financial effects it will cause to UC Berkeley, California’s other public university in the Pac 12.
UCLA and UC Berkeley have played each other in football since 1923.
“The first duty of every public university is to the people – especially students,” Newsom said in a statement. “UCLA must clearly explain to the public how this deal will improve the experience for all its student-athletes, will honor its century-old partnership with UC Berkeley, and will preserve the histories, rivalries, and traditions that enrich our communities.”
The UC Board of Regents cannot force UCLA to reverse the decision. In 1991, campus chancellors were delegated authority by the UC Office of the President to execute their own contracts, including intercollegiate athletic agreements.
The regents though could require UCLA pay UC Berkeley an exit fee for leaving the Pac-12 or share TV revenues they will gain from a move to the Big Ten.
UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on June 30 that changes to the landscape of collegiate athletics prompted the move. UCLA’s athletic department, which sponsors 23 sports, is facing a $102.8-million deficit with most of that coming the past couple years.
“They’re gonna compete at the highest level in a major elite conference in different time zones, UCLA is always national. But now we have the ability for student athletes to showcase their talent across the country,” Jarmond said. “I appreciate the Pac-12. That said, my, my focus first and foremost is our student athletes, and what is best for our student athletes. And when you look at the landscape and how dynamic is changing, the Big Ten was the right move at the right time for us.”