Gold: What we learned - and didn't learn - from UC Regents meeting
So, that happened.
The University of California Regents met on Wednesday to discuss the findings of an impact report on the effects UCLA’s pending move from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten could have on the university itself and the rest of the UC system. The report (which can be read in its entirety here) was presented by UC President Michael Drake at the request of California Governor Gavin Newsom—who was notably absent at the meeting—and other regents.
It promised the following:
- An assessment of the effect that UCLA joining the Big Ten would have on UCLA and other UC campuses’ culture, operations, and finances.
- An analysis of the effects of a change in conference membership on UCLA’s student-athletes, including how the campus plans to address issues related to travel, competition schedules, and academic support.
- A review of the Regents’ delegations of authority as it pertains to athletics operations and recommendations on any updates in policy deemed necessary to ensure proper oversight of major athletics-related decisions
UCOP president Michael Drake calls it the "Pac-10" in opening remarks.
— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) August 17, 2022
So what did we learn today?
At its heart, Wednesday’s meeting — and the report that was presented — was all about voicing concerns from UC stakeholders raised by UCLA’s defection.
From the report:
“Concerns expressed included: whether there had been appropriate opportunities for Regental input into the decision; whether a change in conference would negatively impact student athletes’ academic experience and time to degree; whether changes to student-athletes’ travel commitments would negatively affect their physical and mental health; and whether it was prudent to upend UCLA’s decades-long partnerships with the Pac-12 and relationships with fellow conference members, including UC Berkeley; among other potential challenges.”
For fans and media members following with bated breath, the biggest question remained unanswered: Does the UC Board of Regents actually have the authority to block the move or impose penalties on UCLA for leaving Cal behind?
A spokesperson for the UC Office of the President told The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner last month the regents had no authority to prevent UCLA’s move.
Wednesday’s report included a proposal that would overhaul the UC system’s delegation of authority and grant the UC president — Drake — decision-making power on “all matters regarding athletics programs except those matters previously reserved to the Regents.” (For instance, coach compensation.)
The proposal would allow re-delegation of authorities to occur if the proposed transaction was likely to have a “material adverse financial impact” on other campuses in the UC system, defined as a financial impact equal to or greater than 10% of the operating revenue of the athletic departments of other campuses; if the proposed transaction raised “a significant question of University policy;” or if the proposed transaction was likely to “create significant risk of reputational harm to any campus or to the University.”
Key facts and figures
Here are some of the more revealing facts, figures, and stats to emerge from the report:
- While revenue structures may have shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cal Athletics has typically relied on campus funding for about 20 percent of its revenue budget, while UCLA has typically utilized about two percent.
- The UCLA Athletics program has traditionally generated sufficient revenue to be almost entirely self-funded. The department is responsible for generating funding to sustain 25 intercollegiate teams and high-level participation opportunities for approximately 700 student-athletes every year. More than half of UCLA Athletics revenue comes from conference media distributions and ticket sales, and about two percent from general campus support on an ongoing basis.
- Despite having two fewer men’s teams and one fewer women’s team – and as a result, 143 fewer athletes on campus – UCLA’s athletics budget is nearly $20 million more than Cal’s.
- Although UCLA has traditionally been a nearly balanced budget program, infrastructure investments and other one-time disruptions have combined to create a significant structural deficit in recent years. In 2021-22, the deficit was $28M.
- Cal Athletics’ has also faced a sizable structural deficit in recent years. Prior to the 2019 implementation of a new budget agreement, Cal Athletics received approximately $24M in annual support from the central campus. In 2019, the Chancellor and Athletic Director developed a long-term financial agreement that would result in a decrease in institutional support that would level off at $13.35M by 2025.
Points of interest
I found this excerpt fascinating:
“Internal disagreements led to the dissolution of the PCC in 1958. UCLA and UC Berkeley joined the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU) with Washington, USC, and Stanford, and collectively, they extended their contract with the Rose Bowl. The AAWU expressed a goal of “equal devotion to big-time football and academic standards.
“Around that time, there was some discussion of a superconference—the Airplane Conference—which would have brought together PCC, the three largest service academies (Army, Navy, and Air Force), and four Eastern universities (Notre Dame, Pitt, Penn State, and Syracuse). It never formalized, in part because the Pentagon was opposed to the idea and also because UCLA and UC Berkeley faculty did not want to include members with “lesser academic standards.”
And this as well:
“Academically, the Pac-12 is composed of a strong cadre of research institutions: nine of the 12 current schools, including UCLA and USC, are members of the American Association of Universities (AAU), a group of the nation’s leading research universities. The Big Ten is of comparable academic excellence. Thirteen of 14 current Big Ten members are AAU members. For comparison, there are 11 total AAU members among the combined 43 schools that comprise the other three Power 5 conferences.”
One of the more interesting points of the report was related to student-athlete travel. An entire section was devoted to that.
“Fourteen of UCLA’s 25 teams – about 373 students – do not compete in structured conference competition or compete usually in multi-team events and tournaments, and therefore would have minimal or no increase in travel. … Three of UCLA’s 25 teams currently utilize chartered flights for competitions: Women’s Basketball, Men’s Basketball, and Football (155 students). These teams currently have five or six conference away trips each season. These would see increased flight times of one to three hours each way and time zone changes that may warrant an extra night away from campus on certain occasions.
The remaining eight UCLA teams (175 students) are: Men’s Baseball, Men’s and Women’s Soccer, Men’s and Women’s Tennis, Women’s Softball, Women’s Gymnastics, and Women’s Volleyball. Currently, these teams take two to five conference-related away trips each year. They currently may also travel for non-conference competition to the Midwest, South, and East Coast once or twice per season. As members of the Big Ten, some non-conference competitions could instead take place in California, reducing travel time. Year-over-year projected travel time increases would be the difference in travel to conference away games in the Midwest compared to the Mountain/Pacific West.”
Well, it’s pretty clear why Martin Jarmond and the UCLA athletic department took matters into their own hands. Some of the regents made it clear they have zero understanding of college athletics.
One of the regents seems to be under the impression Cal can just decide whether or not it wants to be in the Big Ten too,
Another just proposed they should model out various scenarios for Cal — including one where it moves to Division III.
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) August 17, 2022
What does this all mean?
Story should be up soon but as an aside: 1) It’s clear the UC Regents know very little about how college athletics work and 2) It’s also clear why UCLA had to make this move quietly.
— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) August 17, 2022
Ah, government bureaucracy. Ain’t it grand?