Gold: Is Wednesday the most important day in UCLA Athletics history?
Well, it’s come down to this.
On Wednesday morning, the University of California Board of Regents will meet, and on the agenda for a 12:30 p.m. open session is the review of an internal report regarding UCLA’s decision to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten, presented by the office of the University of California President, or more specifically, California Governor Gavin Newsom. After that open session will be a closed session to specifically discuss the “legal issues” brought up by the groundbreaking move.
So what is up for debate?
Oh, just the future of UCLA athletics and the fate of the college sports universe. Nothing top special.
Back in late June, when The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner broke the news that the Bruins – along with bitter Los Angeles rival USC – were leaving the Pac-12 for the (much) greener pastures of the Big Ten, the thinking was it was a fait accompli. That the story had been written with an exclamation point.
Source: USC and UCLA are planning to leave for the Big Ten as early as 2024. Move *has not been finalized* at the highest levels of power.
— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) June 30, 2022
Only, it turns out it was an ellipsis.
That simple *has not been finalized* is maybe the biggest caveat in the history of college sports.
Had UCLA usurped the process by negotiating directly with the Big Ten, a clandestine operation that happened outside of the inner workings of the UC system? And how would the Bruins’ defection impact their most important long-term partner – not USC, but UC Berkeley?
“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.”
On Wednesday, UCLA will learn just how egregious of a tactical error it was to work outside of the system. Questions, we assume, will be answered.
- Will the Regents attempt to block the Bruins’ move east?
- Can they impose some kind of financial separation agreement?
- Will UCLA be forced to subsidize Cal with its media rights-driven windfall?
Or is this all just crying over spilt milk?
To be fair, the tears are justified: the loss of UCLA and USC is financially devastating to a Pac-12 conference that was already financially devastated by virtue of having Larry Scott as commissioner. Worse, it could spearhead the defection of other Pac-12 programs. Almost every other school in the league has been discussed as potential fodder for everywhere from the Big Ten to the Big 12 to the ACC.
As a result, all eyes will be on Wednesday’s meeting. If Newsome brings down the hammer on UCLA, the presidents of other Pac-12 schools could be hesitant to defect to other conferences, at least without in-state partners. Much has been made of Washington and Oregon potentially joining the Big Ten. What would that mean for Washington State and Oregon State? The Four Corners schools have been bandied about as a quartet — Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and a suddenly much more attractive Utah — to the Big 12. Will Wednesday’s meeting strike fair into their hearts?
And what about schools like San Diego State, Fresno State, BYU? The ripple effects are enormous. This is like the Butterfly Effect, only Ashton Kutcher doesn’t lose his arms in a mailbox explosion.
Ultimately, though, this comes down to one thing: What happens to UCLA?
At stake for the Bruins is the whole world.
At this point, 47 days after UCLA declared divorce, the extent of the fallout remains murky.
Clarity will come Wednesday, courtesy of the regents.
Or maybe not.
That clarity won’t just be for the Bruins.
The rest of the college sports world watches with bated breath, as well.