Gavin Newsom wants an explanation.
The California governor, who spoke at the UC Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco on Wednesday, demanded that UCLA give a public explanation about how its move to the Big Ten Conference will benefit student-athletes and the school's partnership with UC Berkeley.
"The first duty of every public university is to the people — especially students," Newsom said, via the Los Angeles Times. "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."
UCLA and USC announced last month that they will move to the Big Ten in 2024, something that shocked the college football world and significantly expanded the Big Ten’s footprint.
USC, as a private university, is not part of the UC school system. UCLA is, which is why Newsom is speaking out. The move to the Big Ten has put Berkeley and the Pac-12 conference in jeopardy of losing millions in media rights revenue and more.
While Newsom wants an explanation, one benefit is already clear. The Big Ten’s next media rights deal is reportedly expected to be worth more than $1 billion. That will significantly help the Bruins’ athletic department, which is reportedly in debt and was on the verge of cutting several sports entirely before the move.
"I inherited a deficit with UCLA athletics," school athletic director Martin Jarmond told ESPN. "So when you have a significant financial challenge, it's difficult to just maintain, never mind to invest. This move not only preserves the programs we have now but also allows us to invest in them in levels that can lead to more competitive success."
It’s unclear if UCLA will respond to Newsom’s demand. There isn’t a requirement that the athletic department get permission from the UC system to move conferences. Per the report, there is talk of requiring UCLA paying UC Berkeley an “exit fee” to leave the conference or even sharing TV revenue in the future. It’s unclear if university regents could impose such a fine.
“It’s about more than sports and more than money,” Newsom’s principal adviser on education Ben Chida told the Times. “It’s about public trust. It’s about student-athlete mental health. And it’s about honoring the partnerships, histories and traditions that have lasted a century.”