LOS ANGELES—Gov. Gavin Newsom lashed out again July 20 at UCLA over the university’s decision to move its athletic program out of the Pac-12 Conference and into the Big Ten starting in 2024, saying the school needs to publicly explain its reasoning and how the move will benefit student-athletes.
Newsom has been open about his distaste for the move, telling Fox11 in an interview last week he was particularly irked about the lack of notification to his office or even the University of California Board of Regents, on which he serves as an ex-officio member. He noted that he found out about the move by reading it in the media.
“I read about it. Is it a good idea? Did we have a chance to discuss the merits [of the decision]?” Newsom told Channel 11. “I’m not aware anyone did. So it was done in isolation. It was done without regental oversight or support. It was done without any consideration to my knowledge.”
Newsom doubled down on his criticism Wednesday when he attended a UC Board of Regents closed-door meeting in San Francisco to discuss the issue and possible steps that might be taken to intervene. The governor issued a statement to the Los Angeles Times saying a public university’s “first duty … is to the people—especially students.”
“UCLA must clearly explain to the public how this deal 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,” he said.
The move by UCLA and USC—arguably the top-drawing athletic programs in the Pac-12—to the Big Ten will be a major financial hit to the remaining teams in the conference, most notably Berkeley, which will be the only remaining UC school.
UCLA and USC stand to see a major boost in revenue from media rights deals in the Big Ten, which will become a coast-to-coast conference including some of the nation’s most prominent athletic programs. But the remainder of the Pac-12 will likely suffer major financial losses thanks to the loss of two of the conference’s top attractions.
In announcing the planned move, UCLA officials noted that the financial boost from the Big Ten will allow the university to maintain all of its athletic programs, some of which were believed to be in financial jeopardy absent a major influx of cash. The university also noted a major benefit for student-athletes, likely allowing them to obtain more lucrative “name, image and likeness” deals.
“Additionally, it means enhanced resources for all of our teams, from academic support to mental health and wellness,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Athletics Director Martin Jarmond said in a statement announcing the move last month. “And although this move increases travel distances for teams, the resources offered by Big Ten membership may allow for more efficient transportation options. We would also explore scheduling accommodations with the Big Ten that best support our student-athletes’ academic pursuits.”
USC President Carol L. Folt, in a statement of her own, said, “With the Big Ten, we are joining a storied conference that shares our commitment to academic excellence and athletic competitiveness, and we are positioning USC and our student-athletes for long-term success and stability amidst the rapidly evolving sports media and collegiate athletics landscapes. We are delighted to begin this new chapter in 2024.”