University of California Regents clears way for UCLA to join Big Ten – USA TODAY

LOS ANGELES — The University of California Regents on Wednesday cleared the way for UCLA to join the Big Ten – with conditions. 
UCLA, now set to leave the Pac-12 in 2024, will be required to spend $11 million to $12 million a year for enhanced academic and nutritional support and expanded mental health resources for its athletes and $2 million to $10 million a year for the University of California, Berkeley, a Pac-12 member and sister school of UCLA’s.
UCLA’s exit from the Pac-12 is expected to reduce the value of the conference’s TV rights deal because it will be losing the Los Angeles market. As a result, Cal and other Pac-12 schools would receive less money.
The amount of money Cal gets will depend on the value of the Pac-12 media rights deal and must be used to enhance support for the school’s athletes.
A 11-5 vote by the UC Regents in favor of move was the final step needed for UCLA’s move to the Big Ten, which is expected to result in tens of millions of dollars more a year for the school.
The regents met in a closed session for more than an hour before voting at a conference center.
“I would love there to be harmony amongst everybody,” said Rich Leib, chair of the UC Regents. “To be honest with you, I would love for Cal in the Big Ten. … But that’s not where it is right now.’’
Leib said the regents explored the possibility of the Big Ten taking Cal and adding additional Pac-12 schools — Stanford, Washington and Oregon.
“We certainly put some pressure on to see if we could,” he said. “In the end, the expansion was not going to be on the table for us.’’
Ultimately, Leib said, the key to building enough support to approve UCLA’s move was setting aside money to enhance the experience for the school’s athletes. 
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, inundated with criticism after UCLA announced its intentions in June, said “we’re happy to have it resolved” but did not look outwardly happy.
He called the proceedings “unsettling.”
“Well, to me personally unsettling because this is a difficult decision,” he said. “I’ve been a member of the Pac-12 for a long time and my education was at a Pac-12 institution (Stanford and Oregon), so this is hard.’’
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In June, UCLA and Southern California announced they both were leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. USC, a private school, faced no public hurdles. The situation proved far different for UCLA, a public school that is part of University of California system. 
Governor Gavin Newsom lashed out after UCLA’s announcement. 
“It was done in isolation, it was done without any regental oversight or support, it was done without any consideration, to my knowledge,’’ Newsom, an ex officio for the Regents, told Fox 11 Los Angeles in July
He demanded an explanation from UCLA about how the deal would improve the experience from its athletes and impact the University of California, Berkeley. 
Newsom did not attend the meeting.
UCLA’s exit from the Pac-12 is expected to reduce the value of the conference’s TV rights deal because it will be losing the Los Angeles market. As a result, Cal and other Pac-12 schools would receive less money.  
The financial fortunes look far different for UCLA as the athletic department manages a three-year, $100 million debt.  
Projections show UCLA could increase its annual take from media rights by tens of millions of dollars, with Big Ten schools having received $48.9 million each during the 2021 fiscal year and Pac-12 schools having received $19.8 million over that same time period, according to fiscal reports 
But critics have called the move a money grab and some argue the travel to Big Ten schools in the East and Midwest would increase stress on athletes and potentially harm their mental health and academic performance. 
Legendary UCLA basketball player Bill Walton publicly opposed the move, citing the negative impact on the health, both physical and mental, of UCLA’s athletes. 
“I don’t believe that joining the Big 10 is in the best interest of UCLA, it’s students, its athletes, it’s alumni, its fans, the rest of the UC System, the State of California, or the world at large,’’ Walton said
Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA football player and executive director of National College Players Association, assailed the move.  
In a letter to the UC Regents, Huma wrote, “No matter how much money is generated, UCLA cannot spend its way out of increased travel times for its athletes that will directly reduce UCLA athletes’ ability to keep up with their academics and complete their degree.” 
The National College Players Association released a statement following the UC Regents’ decision: “The UC Regents are now complicit in sacrificing UCLA athletes’ education to increase salaries for a few people and to gold plate a few more facilities. Allowing UC Berkeley to join the financial and academic exploitation of UCLA athletes does not make it any better.  UCLA leaders and UC Regents have lost their way.  UCLA athletes are not university property. They should be treated fairly in both the educational and business aspects of college sports. This move does neither.”
But Tyrone C. Howard, a UCLA professor of education who also is director of the UCLA Black Male Institute, expressed support for the move. 
“If there’s worry about the move harming Black male student athletes, that is cause for a much deeper and different discussion, because they face more complex challenges than which conference their school is in,’’ said Howard, who argued the additional media revenue would allow the school to provide more resources for its athletes. 
Of the up to $12 million set aside for athletes in the 2023-24 fiscal year, no less than $4.3 million will go toward nutritional support, according to a news release issued by the University of California Office of the President.
No less than $562,800 will support additional mental health service providers for student-athletes and education programs around stress management, sleep, disordered eating, and other conditions, according to the news release.
“The University of California is deeply grateful for the guidance and input provided by Governor Gavin Newsom, the UC Regents, UC student-athletes, and community members in open board meetings, surveys, and other discussions on this issue,” UC President Michael V. Drake said in a statement. “This additional support will help our student athletes thrive in the classroom, in their communities, and on the playing field. Today’s action reflects the extensive input of the UC community and the University’s deep commitment to supporting our student-athletes as scholars and as competitors, now and in the future.”
Contributing: Steve Berkowitz, Tom Schad 


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