Is UCLA really going to ditch Cal? What will the Regents say?
Long before their first football matchup ended in a scoreless tie way back in 1933, the UCLA and Cal athletic departments were joined at the hip.
Forget USC, the Bruins’ cross-town rivals. The hated Trojans are an ideal foil, a nearby private school that insists on reminding every UCLA fan that it is a nearby private school. And, yes, perhaps spiritually and even psychologically, USC may be the Bruins’ most loathed opponents.
Practically, UCLA and Cal are much more tied together than the Bruins and their Trojan rivals, with both being the two flagship schools of the University of California system.
We were reminded of that on Tuesday, when The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner continued his magnificent reporting on the massive realignment in college football with the breaking news that the UC Board of Regents was set to discuss UCLA’s move to the Big Ten next week, among other juicy tidbits.
While the Regents cannot block the Bruins’ massive move east, other options are on the table, including, Wilner pondered, “…the Regents themselves facing litigation for allowing the Bruins to leave the conference that has been their home for more than a century?”
The Board and the Bears, it appears, were bushwhacked by the news that the two Los Angeles schools were leaving. Wilner reported that “a source close to Cal athletics said chancellor Carol Christ was “blindsided” by the news of UCLA’s departure. The repercussions, she almost certainly knows, will be immediate.
The financial hit to the Cal athletic department is already devastating—losing the nation’s No. 2 market will have catastrophic implications for the Pac-12’s expedited media negotiations, even if the league manages to add additional teams in other time zones.
With 30 athletic teams to support, the Bears are facing a bleak future.
Unless, of course, they can somehow hitch their wagon to UCLA’s and find a way to head east themselves.
Might there be a way for Cal to cling to their brethren from the south?
The Regents meeting will tell us a whole lot.
In an April edition of “Campus Conversations,” Christ was asked about the school’s financial future, which at the time included a nearly $60 million budget deficit.
“I think triumphalist narratives get you into trouble because there is no place to go but down,” Christ told the crowd. “I think it is much more important to have a ‘resilience narrative’ of Berkeley, because there of course have been a lot of challenges in our 150-year history.”
This one ranks among the biggest.
But one of the earliest?
That came in 1926.
Almost a decade prior, in 1917, UC Regent Edward Augustus Dickson—the only regent then representing Southern California—partnered with Director of the Los Angeles State Normal School Ernest Carrol Moore to lobby the California Legislature for the school to become the second University of California campus. UC Berkeley had been established nearly six decades earlier, in 1868.
In 1919, Governor William D. Stephens signed Assembly Bill 626, which ultimately transformed the Los Angeles Normal School into the Southern Branch of the University of California. The re-branded school picked up a mascot—the Cubs—as in the baby Bears.
Fast forward nine years, and the newly-named UCLA now vied to join the Pacific Coast Conference, as their predecessors up in Berkeley clung to two athletic nicknames: the Bears and the Bruins. UCLA was now named the Grizzlies, but the PCC had a “Grizzlies” in the University of Montana.
Then Berkeley’s student leaders offered the “Bruins” moniker to UCLA, and UCLA’s Associated Student Council voted unanimously to adopt the name.
It was an act of scholarly camaraderie. An act of goodwill.
If only the Bruins offered Cal such magnanimity this time around.
Don’t they know what they’re doing?
This is going to punish their UC system partners, while rewarding their cross-town rivals. It’s like Troy Aikman throwing a touchdown pass to Keyshawn Johnson. Blasphemy, which buries Berkeley.
“Berkeley is a kind of miracle, the University of California system is a kind of miracle,” Christ said in that 2018 interview. “It is important to think about what kind of miracle it is, but it is important not to shy away from the challenges.”
And this sure is one.
But it is a challenge that Cal may be able to navigate, especially if the Board of Regents has any say in the matter.
How fitting would it be if the Bears proved to be a thorn in UCLA’s side?
Thorn…Rose Bowl…sometimes it’s just poetic.
Just ask Christ.
“I’m a student of English,” said Christ, who chaired Cal’s English Department from 1985-1988 and was a professor of Victorian literature. “I’m a big believer in narrative, and how important narratives are. I think Berkeley needs to be spending a lot of time thinking about its story.”