UCLA Bruins

Newsom wants explanation from UCLA about move to Big Ten

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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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.”

Pac-12 facing uncertain future after losses to Big Ten

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
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The Pac-12 can make a case as the most successful conference in collegiate athletics, amassing more than 500 NCAA championships while leading the nation in titles 56 of the past 62 years.

But when it comes to the biggest moneymakers, football and men’s basketball, the “Conference of Champions” has come up short for years.

The lack of success, particularly in football, combined with the conference’s media rights missteps have put the Pac-12 on shaky financial footing, opening the door for two of its marquee schools to jump ship.

Now, with the loss of UCLA and USC to the Big Ten in 2024, the conference and its remaining member schools face an even more uncertain economic future.

“You have exploding costs on one end and your revenue sources are being decimated, which is a tremendous pressure,” Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist said. “On the other hand, what do you do? Well, something pretty radical I think is going to have to happen.”

The Pac-12’s dilemma has been building for years.

Once a powerhouse football conference, the Pac-12 has been a bit player in the national championship conversation of late.

Since Oregon was blown out by Ohio State in the 2015 championship game, the Pac-12 has had one team play in the College Football Playoff: Washington in 2017. Oregon has fallen off since Chip Kelly left for the NFL in 2013 and Southern California, once the conference’s marquee program, never fully got back on track after the NCAA sanctions of the Pete Carroll era.

The Pac-12 has been just as quiet in men’s basketball, getting two teams – Oregon in 2017 and UCLA in 2021 – through to the Final Four.

The lack of success made the Pac-12’s football games maybe-watch TV, which in turn has made it more difficult to lure top coaches and recruits away from rival conferences – particularly the football juggernaut SEC.

“In the old days, USC and UCLA would be right up there at the top of the national football heap every year, and they’ve fallen way down,” Zimbalist said. “And so you need some fill up, some boost to get them to a point where they can really be a strong, strong franchise again – and I just don’t see that.”

The Pac-12 drop-off was compounded by its media rights deals.

As TV packages began to bulge, former Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott pushed for the conference to build its own network instead of partnering with ESPN, Fox or another network. A self-sustained network would allow the Pac-12 to control programming, showcase its highly successful Olympic sports and reap all the financial rewards.

The Pac-12 Networks never soared like Scott envisioned, bogged down, in part, by an inability to reach an agreement with DirecTV, which prevented the conference’s sports from reaching millions of homes.

The Pac-12 did work out a lucrative deal to have some of its games shown on ESPN and Fox, but the networks often wanted those to fill late-night time slots on the East Coast.

The deals left the conference in a “Pac-12 After Dark” hole. The Pac-12 had the lowest distribution number among Power Five schools, paying its member institutions $19.8 million in 2021.

By contrast, the SEC distributed $54.6 million to each of its member schools in 2021 and the Big Ten $46.1 million.

Finances mean stability in the world of college sports, so the lure of more money was a big driver in the departures of USC and UCLA, which said it faced cutting sports if it didn’t leave for the Big Ten.

The moves in turn will hurt the Pac-12’s bottom line; not only did the conference lose two big programs, its foothold in the nation’s second-largest media market is going away.

“When you see the rich get richer, people are going to grab for their share,” said Tom McMillen, president and CEO of Lead1, which represents Football Bowl Subdivision athletic directors and programs.

The loss of UCLA and USC puts the Pac-12 at a crossroads.

The conference announced last week that it is pursuing all expansion avenues and pushed up negotiations for its next media rights deal; the current one is set to end in 2024.

The Pac-12 could form a partnership with another conference in need of a lift, like the ACC, which would possibly cause travel problems for smaller sports. It also could add members from a smaller conference like the Mountain West or convince schools from the Big 12 to defect, like Colorado and Utah did in 2011.

The conference also may have its hand forced if several schools bolt for another conference to find stability, perhaps to the Big 12 to form another superconference with the SEC and Big Ten.

“I think you’ll see more consolidation,” McMillen said. “This is not new. This is economics 101. There’s a lot of efficiencies. Think about all this: we have 32 conferences. There’s probably $1 billion of overhead and when you merge conferences, you’re obviously streamlining some of that.”

More conference realignment is coming. The fate of the Pac-12 is still to be determined.

UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. to return for senior season

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES — Jaime Jaquez Jr. will return to UCLA for his senior season, keeping him in Westwood for the debut of his sister Gabriela with the women’s basketball team.

A slickly produced video posted to his social media accounts concluded with Jaquez slipping on his team jersey and saying, “I’m coming back.”

The video featured highlights of his first three seasons and images of John Wooden, who guided the Bruins to 10 of their record 11 NCAA titles.

“I want to hang banner No. 12 at Pauley Pavilion,” Jaquez said.

The guard-forward from nearby Camarillo earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors last season. Jaquez has averaged 11.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 97 games over three seasons.

“Jaime has a chance to go down with so many other great Bruins in UCLA history who have played four seasons in front of the Pauley Pavilion faithful,” coach Mick Cronin said in a statement.

Jaquez’s sister is a 6-foot forward who averaged 34.2 points as a senior and led Camarillo High to a 30-3 record. She scored 52 points in a playoff game, second most in Ventura County history.

UCLA’s Peyton Watson headed to NBA draft after 1 season

Abbie Parr / Stringer / Getty Images
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LOS ANGELES — UCLA’s Peyton Watson is entering the NBA draft after one season in Westwood and hiring an agent, which officially ends his college eligibility.

Watson announced his decision Tuesday on his social media accounts.

“I’m excited for the next chapter and I’m ready to fulfill my lifelong goal of being an NBA player,” he wrote.

The guard-forward from nearby Long Beach averaged 3.3 points while shooting 32% and averaged 2.9 rebounds playing nearly 13 minutes per game. His 19 blocked shots ranked second on the team and he appeared in 32 games last season.

Watson was an honorable mention on the Pac-12 All-Freshman team.

“We are very excited for Peyton,” coach Mick Cronin said. “We all know he has tremendous upside as a basketball player, and we were fortunate to have him in Westwood.”

The Bruins finished 27-8 and lost to North Carolina in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Watson played just three minutes in that game, equaling his fewest of the season.

“Although we didn’t reach all of our goals as a team this season, my experience at UCLA made me a better person and a better player,” he wrote.

Before coming to UCLA, Watson helped the U.S. win a gold medal at the FIBA Under 19 World Cup last July.

The Bruins already lost reserve guard Jake Kyman, who said he is transferring.

If the shoe fits: Love leads Carolina over UCLA into Elite 8

Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports
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PHILADELPHIA — Turns out, the best explanation for the shooting spree Caleb Love put on for North Carolina was also the simplest.

It’s gotta be the shoes.

Reinvigorated by a change of sneakers at halftime, Love went crazy for the Tar Heels on Friday night. He made the game-tying and go-ahead 3-pointers 37 seconds apart to lift Carolina to a 73-66 victory over UCLA in a March Madness matchup of power programs.

Love scored 27 of his career-high 30 points in the second half, part of a barrage that included NBA-range 3s and no-look layups. His go-ahead 3 came with 1:03 left. He also hit a pair of free throws with 7.8 seconds remaining that put away the fourth-seeded Bruins for good.

The idea to change shoes came from the team’s director of operations, Eric Hoots, after Love shot 1 for 8 in the first half. He shot 10 for 16 in the second.

“I’m going to give him a raise,” coach Hubert Davis said of his right-hand man.

North Carolina is one win away from its 21st Final Four, which would improve on the record it already holds. Its next game is Sunday against Saint Peter’s in a first-of-its-kind 8-vs.-15 matchup in the Elite Eight. The 15th-seeded Peacocks topped Purdue 67-64 earlier in the evening.

Every bit as tantalizing, the Tar Heels and their archrival Duke, which plays Arkansas on Saturday, are each one win away from a matchup at the Final Four in New Orleans next weekend. The teams have never played each other in the NCAA Tournament.

As great as the Saint Peter’s run has been, and as great as both games in Philly were Friday night, nobody stood out more over the five hours of hoops at the Wells Fargo Center – the same place Carolina punched its ticket for the 2016 Final Four – than Love.

The sophomore was held to five points in last week’s win over Baylor, but managed one point more than that during the decisive 37 seconds. His go-ahead 3 marked the last of 14 lead changes in a game that was also tied eight times.

“One hot player can send you home,” UCLA guard Jules Bernard said.

Last year, that hot player was Jalen Suggs, the Gonzaga guard who banked one in from near half court to end UCLA’s season at the national semifinal. This time, it was Love, who scored one fewer point than what Bernard (16) and Tyger Campbell (15) put up, combined.

This was a nip-and-tuck affair all the way through. Neither team led by more than eight. In their second-round win over Baylor, the Tar Heels built a 25-point advantage, only to squander it, then pull things together and pull out the game in overtime.

That game got dicey once Brady Manek got tossed for throwing an inadvertent elbow. Manek played all but two minutes in this one and finished with 13 points.

Armando Bacot had 14 points and 15 rebounds for North Carolina, the most crucial of which came when he tipped in a miss by R.J. Davis with 15 seconds left to build Carolina’s lead to five points – the biggest it had been to that point.

But this game, especially the second half, belonged to Love, who started heating up as soon as he came out of the locker room with a fresh pair of Jordans. He scored seven of North Carolina’s first 12 points of the half, then, with the game tied at 44, scored 10 in a row for the Tar Heels.

Those included a pair of twisting, practically no-look layups and an NBA-range 3-pointer. He followed that with a heat-check 3, jacked up from the elbow under pressure. It missed, but that didn’t stop him.

Trailing 64-61 with 2 minutes left, the Tar Heels fed to Love, who missed again – this time on a pull-up 3 that would have tied it. Bacot got the rebound and Carolina fed Love once more. That one went in at the 1:40 mark. The Tar Heels didn’t trail again.

“I never lose my confidence level,” Love said. “Coach Davis and all my teammates always tell me that. I feel like that’s the best part of my game, not to lose my confidence.”

FREE FLOWING

In a rarity for the NCAA Tournament, or any basketball game played outside a playground, the teams went exactly 9 full minutes to start without a single whistle stopping play.

UCLA led 18-14 at that point. Then, sadly, reality hit with two TV timeouts over the ensuing 29 seconds of action.

INJURY UPDATE

UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. played all but two minutes despite the ankle he sprained last week against Saint Mary’s. He had 10 points and five rebounds but shot 1 for 11 in the second half.

RECORD-TYING

This was North Carolina’s 129th victory in the tournament, which ties Kentucky for the all-time lead.

UCLA turns away Saint Mary’s 72-56, returns to Sweet 16

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
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PORTLAND, Ore. — Tyger Campbell scored 16 points and fourth-seeded UCLA completed a more conventional path to the Sweet 16, beating fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s 72-56 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

UCLA (27-7), which went all the way from the First Four to the Final Four last season, will face eighth-seeded North Carolina on Friday in the East Region semifinals in Philadelphia. The Tar Heels are the more surprising half of that blueblood pair after they beat defending champion Baylor earlier Saturday.

The Bruins lost star Jaime Jaquez Jr. to a right ankle injury with 6:58 in the game. He winced as he was helped off the court by teammates and later returned to the bench with his ankle wrapped in ice. Jaquez finished with 15 points, all in the first half.

Logan Johnson scored 18 points for Saint Mary’s (26-8), the only team in the West Coast Conference to beat No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga this season.

The Bruins took a 36-29 lead into halftime but the Gaels closed within 38-37 early in the second half on Alex Ducas’ 3-pointer. Jules Bernard hit a 3 and a layup that pushed UCLA’s lead back to 48-41.

Johnny Juzang made three consecutive jumpers that put the Bruins up 54-44 with 9:41 left and UCLA pulled away, leading by as many as 18 points down the stretch. Juzang finished with 14 points.

The Gaels hit three 3-pointers to jump out to an early 16-9 lead. Shutting down Saint Mary’s with physical defense, the Bruins went on an 11-2 run to pull in front 24-22.

Saint Mary’s was 0-for-12 from the field and had three turnovers during a stretch of more than seven minutes toward the end of the half.

BIG PICTURE

Saint Mary’s: The Gaels downed all three of their common opponents with UCLA this season – Oregon, Gonzaga and Bellarmine. The Bruins fell to Gonzaga and twice to the Ducks. The 18th-ranked Gaels earned their highest seed in 11 NCAA Tournament appearances but fell short of their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2010.

UCLA: The Bruins are 11-2 all-time against Saint Mary’s, but the teams had not played since 1990. … UCLA is making its 51st tournament appearance. The Bruins have a record 11 national titles.