Governor Newson wants UCLA to justify their move to the Big Ten
July 28, 2022
When the UCLA Bruins made the surprising decision to leave with USC and head to the Big Ten Conference, a conference located in the Midwest and the Eastern part of the nation, the Bruins had to know that the decision to leave the Pac-12 Conference was not going to be a popular decision. Sending student-athletes on long trips back east and walking away from long-time rivals was not going to go unanswered.
Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom was asked about UCLA's impending conference switch in an interview with Fox 11 Los Angeles on Thursday. Newsom who serves as an ex officio for the Regents of the University of California, the governing board of the entire UC system, including UCLA, said he was completely unaware of any discussion regarding UCLA leaving the Pac-12 conference.
"No big deal if I am the governor of the stater of California, but maybe a bigger deal is I'm chair of the UC regents and I read about it," Newsom said. "It was done in isolation, it was done without any regental oversight or support, it was done without any consideration, to my knowledge."
Newsom fought to get an increase for UCLA of $500 million in the General Fund over a three-year period ($200 million in 2022-23, with an additional $200 million in 2023-24 and $100 million in 2024-25 planned for this purpose) to establish the Institute for Immunology and Immunotherapy at UCLA. The project is intended to bring together academics and researchers for collaborative research to maintain California’s leading edge in biotechnology. Newsom may feel he has some leverage over UCLA.
"The first duty of every public university is to the people, especially students," Newsom said in a statement to the LA Times at Wednesday's meeting of the UC Board of Regents in San Francisco. "UCLA must clearly explain to the public how this deal (the move to the Big Ten) will improve the experience for all its student-athletes, will honor its century-old partnership with UC Berkeley, and will preserve the histories, rivalries, and traditions that enrich our communities."
The Bruins and the Pac-12 compete in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), which is the highest level of college football in the United States. The FBS consists of some of the largest schools in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). There are 10 conferences and 131 schools in FBS football.
The ten football conferences consist of five “Power Conferences” and five “Group of Five Conferences.” The Pac-12 is considered a power conference, which is advantageous in the distribution of college football playoff revenue. In 2019-2020, the total CFP revenue distributed was $488.8 million dollars. The Pac-12 collected $70. 4 million, which was distributed among their 12 members.
The current chaos in college football is about money. The Big Ten Conference and the Southeastern Conference, better known as the SEC, have through expansion and television dollars begun to separate from the other power conferences. In 2019-2020, the Pac-12 conference distributed an average of $33.6M per member university. The new contract with the Big Ten conference is expected to earn UCLA and USC at least $100 million annually. The Big Ten and the SEC are creating a “Power Two.”
Newsom and the state of California should use this inquiry into UCLA’s move to the Big Ten Conference to get a better understanding of where college football in the 21st Century is headed. There is going to a be a separation between the “haves " and " have- nots” in college football. A caste system of sorts that will separate the wealthy football schools from the middle-class football schools.
Newsom should understand that the UCLA decision to leave was necessary in order to have the resources to compete with the top college football programs of the Big Ten Conference and the SEC. They had to take the money that the Big Ten was offering.
Newsom and the state legislators need to decide how much money they are willing to allocate to the UCLA and Cal athletic departments to keep them competitive and in a western conference. Otherwise, it is going to be difficult for schools like UCLA and Cal to compete with the top college football programs in the country in the Pac-12.
That may not seem important to Newsom and the legislators, but what will happen will be the exodus of the top high school football players in California to schools back east. For example, the winner of the Heisman Trophy, a trophy that is awarded annually to the most outstanding player in college football, was quarterback Bryce Young of Alabama, who played football in high school for Santa Ana Mater Dei.
Quarterback C.J. Stroud of Ohio State finished 4th in the voting and quarterback Matt Corral of Mississippi finished 7th in the voting. Stroud played his high school football at Rancho Cucamonga high school and Corral played at Long Beach Poly high school. The exodus of football talent has already started and will only get worse without the funding to compete at the highest level of college football.
Rutgers University of the Big Ten is getting a windfall from taxpayers, with $100 million earmarked in the New Jersey state budget for renovations to its basketball arena and a new football operations center. UCLA used donations to build the $65 million dollar Wasserman Football Center and the $35 million dollar Mo Ostin Basketball Center. But donations will only take you so far.
This may not stop with UCLA. What if San Diego State accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 conference, a power conference headquartered in Irving, Texas. Would SDSU be forced to stay in their current conference, the Mountain West Conference, for much less revenue?
Another issue for these schools is that the California State Travel Ban. The current California travel ban is making it difficult to schedule road games with colleges in other states. For example, even if San Diego State got an invitation from the Big 12, all the Big 12 member schools are in states that are on the travel ban list.
SDSU would need to use private funds for travel for all road games. UCLA and Cal will face that problem in the Pac-12 when traveling to Utah and Arizona, states that were recently added to the travel ban. The travel ban was a law that was enacted against states that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. It has become ineffective and bureaucratic.
This move to the Big Ten was never going to be easy for UCLA. If the state of California really wants to help UCLA and Cal, and every other public school in the state, then help the schools with athletic revenue and modify or eliminate the travel ban. Most alumni and fans would prefer that UCLA stay in the Pac-12. The state of California has a budget surplus of nearly $100 billion and it certainly would not cost that much to help schools like UCLA and Cal find solutions to their athletic budget issues.