Pac-12 insider details looming battle between UC Regents, UCLA as Bruins ready for Big Ten
A new report from longtime Pac-12 columnist John Canzano on Monday detailed potential options the University of California system regents could take to protect Cal, Berkeley and other system schools in the wake of news UCLA will exit the league in 2024 and join the Big Ten.
Canzano spoke with former Washington state senator Mike Baumgartner—a man who has served on a number of educational and sports committees—and he thinks the UC Board of Regents has some options to make the move uncomfortable for the Bruins… or even stop it. From Canzano’s reporting:
“The UC Regents themselves didn’t know what UCLA was up to and no public vote was taken,” Baumgartner said. “It’s still unclear what the majority of them think, but they could do anything from stop it outright to vote to make UCLA athletics subsidize any financial damage to Cal.”
A subsidy would be an interesting compromise. It would penalize UCLA and bolster Cal, but it wouldn’t ease the anxiety of the bondholders of the UC system. They might still litigate. The Bruins stand to rake in somewhere between $75 million to $100 million in annual media rights revenue under the Big Ten’s TV deal with Fox. Would having to share that windfall with Cal give UCLA pause? Or just serve as a speed bump on the road to the Midwest?
Over the weekend, California governor Gavin Newsom made headlines for publicly blasting UCLA and its leadership for a lack of transparency during negotiations with the Big Ten to join the conference. Newsom was clearly angered that UCLA, as a part of the UC system, didn’t make the UC Board of Regents aware of its move at any point before the news came down.
“I read about it,” he told FOX 11 Los Angeles. “I read about it. I’m the governor, no big deal, governor of the state of California, but maybe a bigger deal is I’m the chair of the UC regents. No one… I read about it.
“It was done in isolation. It was done without any regental oversight or support. It was done without any consideration, to my knowledge. I have strong opinions about this, for no other reason than as a member of the regents, we were never consulted, never asked for an opinion and they didn’t even have the decency to provide (a) heads-up.”
Newsom told FOX 11 the UC Regents began looking into options immediately after learning of the Bruins’ decision to exit the Pac-12. As first reported by The Mercury News Jon Wilner, the BOR is scheduled to meet this week to discuss the topic, with possible litigation cited in the public agenda, per Education Code 92032(b)(5).
Section 92032 of the California education code stipulates that UC regents “may conduct closed sessions when they meet to consider or discuss” a number of topics that include “matters involving litigation, when discussion in open session concerning those matters would adversely affect, or be detrimental to, the public interest.”
A spokesperson for the UC Office of the President told Wilner the regents had no authority to prevent UCLA’s move.
If the move can’t be prevented, a forced subsidy could make the move significantly less attractive for the Bruins. For an athletic department more than $100 million in debt, a nine-figure annual media rights payout from the Big Ten is a lifeline. If that payout starts getting chopped up and distributed to other UC system schools, does the cost analysis change?
Canzano also points to another important factor at play: if UCLA is going to be a perennial mid-tier football program in the Big Ten, is all the extra worth it?
“UCLA’s leadership will be cowering for forgiveness,” Baumgartner told Canzano.
Certainly a situation to monitor going forward. That the governor is publicly involved already signals more could potentially be coming.