Pac-12 commish: 'More than a hundred' UCLA coaches, athletes don't support Big Ten move
At Pac-12 Basketball Media Day on Wednesday, commissioner George Kliavkoff kept the full-court press on UCLA as it attempts to bolt the Pac-12 for the Big Ten and the league, alongside University of California regents, tries to hold things together.
Kliavkoff said he’s spoken with numerous coaches and athletes at UCLA — “more than a hundred” — who are not in support of a move to the Big Ten.
“I have yet to talk to anyone in the UCLA and USC community who’s in favor of the move,” Kliavkoff said. “I will say that I probably hear from folks who are not in favor, not surprisingly.”
UCLA and USC announced this summer they are joining the Big Ten in 2024 when the Pac-12’s current media rights agreements expire. In the Big Ten, the two L.A. schools will join a conference that just signed a record $7 billion media rights deal with FOX, CBS, and NBC. The Bruins could see north of $70 million a year in just TV revenue as a member of the Big Ten.
Kliavkoff penned a letter to the UC Board of Regents last month, asking the governing body to block UCLA’s move while claiming the university would ultimately lose money as a result of its departure. The Pac-12 commissioner reaffirmed his stance on Wednesday.
“We believe between the travel and the coaches’ salaries and some of the other expenses you incur when you join the Big Ten,” Kliavkoff said, “the small delta in the media rights deal will be more than offset. We stand by those numbers.”
According to The L.A. Times’ Ben Bolch, UCLA doesn’t agree.
One person familiar with UCLA’s athletic department finances disputed Kliavkoff’s numbers, estimating the travel cost increases incurred by additional chartered flights and hotel nights associated with arriving early at faraway sites would be more than offset financially by the revenue increase.
The Big Ten is planning to introduce a change to its divisional structure in football once USC and UCLA join the fold. Bolch reported that neutral-site competitions for Olympic sports could be explored, and that UCLA has been assured by the Big Ten that mitigating travel concerns is a priority of the league as it maps out new scheduling models. USC AD Mike Bohn floated late last month that shared charter flights between USC and UCLA could also be an option.
Kliavkoff said the letter that was sent to the UC Regents was not an attempt on the part of the Pac-12 at “thwarting anyone’s wishes,” but rather providing “information as requested.”
The Board of Regents is expected to further discuss the move at their meeting next month.
Kliavkoff and the Pac-12 are working to secure a new media rights agreement that would hold the league together and ward off further defections. Projections place the annual payout for each school around $40 million, and Kliavkoff said Wednesday he expects to eventually catch up with the Big ten and the SEC.
“We’re going to do a media rights deal here in the near future which will close the gap between us and the Big Ten and the SEC,” he said. “That’s a first step (in strengthening the league). Eventually, we’ll catch those guys. It will take a couple of steps, but we’re going to take a step toward closing that gap. Then we’re going to be looking at expansion. We’re going to be looking at schools that make sense for us.”