UCLA

Pac-12 Commissioner Asks UC Recents to Stop UCLA’s Move to Big Ten

George Kliavkoff wrote a letter to the board, which is also considering rolling back campus presidents’ authority on such matters.

The Bruins first announced their decision to leave the Pac-12 all the way back in June, and they are still getting pushback nearly three months later.

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff penned a letter to the University of California Board of Regents on Thursday, which was first obtained by the New York Times, urging the governing body to shut down UCLA’s attempt to move to the Big Ten in 2024. The letter included five significant concerns Kliavkoff and the league office had with the Bruins’ decision – including negative impacts on student-athlete welfare, decreased revenue for Cal and an increase in carbon emissions – and a plea for the Regents to force them to return to the Pac-12.

“UCLA’s decision to leave the Conference that it has been a member of since 1928, and its other flagship university in UC Berkeley, abandons our shared value of supporting the well-being of student-athletes,” the intro to the letter reads. “Should UCLA’s decision stand, it will damage the fabric, century-old history, rivalries and familial ties of the Pac-12.”

The exact concerns the Pac-12 listed were as follows:

1. Significant impact on student-athlete physical and mental well-being, which effects both academics and athletics.

2. Significant hardship for the families of UCLA student-athletes and UCLA alumni

3. Significant negative impact on UCLA expenses

4. Significant negative impact on Pac-12, and by extension Cal, revenues

5. Significant negative impact on UC system’s stated goal of reducing carbon emissions

Among some of the more notable details of the letter is Kliavkoff’s calculation that UCLA’s travel expenses would go up from $8.1 million to as much as $23.1 million, in addition to an extra $15 million in annual expenses to meet the average Big Ten budget.

Kliavkoff’s cry for help comes a day after he made a guest appearance on the Canzano & Wilner Podcast, where he made a similar case that UCLA will actually be worse off financially should they go through with the move to the Big Ten.

“We’ve kind of done back-of-the-envelope calculations on the negative impact on UCLA’s expenses – travel expenses, and just expenses from coaching salaries and other things – just to get to the average Big Ten athletic budget,” Kliavkoff said. “We think that the incremental money they’re gonna receive from the Big Ten media rights deal will be more than 100% offset by additional expenses. So you end up taking that money that you earn and it goes to airline and charter companies and coaches and administrators, it doesn’t go to supporting the student-athletes.”

What exactly the UC Regents can do to stop UCLA from making the move remains undetermined, due in large part to a 1991 ruling that gave campus chancellors the authority to negotiate their own contracts without express approval from the board, including those related to athletic affairs. Still, regent John Perez told the Los Angeles Times in August that “all options are on the table.”

Kliavkoff is making a public push for the Regents to select the option that involves returning UCLA to their original conference, even though he recognizes the difficulty and political obstacles in the way.

“While we acknowledge that overturning UCLA’s decision would be significant for the UC Board of Regents, we believe that the impact of UCLA’s decision on the young women and men who it is charged with supporting warrants such an outcome,” the letter reads. “We also want to ensure the UC Board of Regents that should UCLA remain in the Pac-12, they will not only be welcomed with open arms, but assured of a future of continued growth and success.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that, at the Regents’ meeting in San Diego on Thursday, the board discussed partially rolling back the authorities granted in 1991. The proposal on the table would bar chancellors from exercising their authority if one UC campus’ proposed athletic transaction would cost a sister campus 10% or more of their athletic department’s operating revenue, if it would bring university policy into question or if it would create risk of repetitional harm to the UC at large.

UCLA is set to profit from the $7 billion media rights deal the Big Ten recently struck with CBS, FOX, NBC and others, but Cal has been left waiting to see how much money the Pac-12 can get in its own ongoing negotiations. Per several projections and Kliavkoff’s own admission, the Golden Bears’ potential earnings have been slashed significantly without UCLA and USC alongside them in the Pac-12. 

The board’s ability to enforce this new proposal retroactively, should it pass, remains unclear, and Board Chair Richard Leib told the LA Times that it is meant to help handle future campus actions. The Bruins’ decision to leave the Pac-12 was clearly the event that set off this chain of events, though, and the Regents could reshape the entire UC system as a result.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, former UCLA football quarterback Troy Aikman, former UCLA men’s basketball center Bill Walton and several other prominent figures are on Kliavkoff’s side, as are many of the regents themselves. However, there are roughly 22 months until the Bruins’ move is made official, so the actions set into motion by the dissenting opinions will have to get underway sooner rather than later. 

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