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Big Ten or bust (or door No. 3): UC Board of Regents to decide UCLA's fate, finally


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After months of discussions and debate, surveys and presentations, the University of California Board of Regents will meet Wednesday to determine the fate of UCLA's planned move to the Big Ten in the summer of 2024.

One way or another, the saga will reach its conclusion following open and closed sessions that are scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. at the Luskin Conference Center at UCLA.

The chance of the governing board overturning the Bruins' move is "extremely unlikely," according to a source familiar with the process.

Rescinding any decision made by a campus chancellor — UCLA's Gene Block formalized the Big Ten entry on June 30 — could create a dangerous precedent within the UC system.

But it's not necessarily an all-or-nothing proposition for the regents. There's another option, one that could satisfy numerous factions: a UCLA "tax."

Our apologies if you thought there would be no math …

The loss of UCLA and USC — and the massive Southern California media market — will reduce annual revenue for the remaining Pac-12 members, including Cal. Projections range from as low as $30 million (per school per year) to as high as $35 million or $38 million.

(If the Bruins were to remain in the Pac-12 and provide an anchor in L.A., the annual revenue likely would increase by at least 10 percent for the conference.)

Meanwhile, UCLA is projected to receive at least $62.5 million annually — and perhaps as much as $70 million — from the Big Ten's media agreement, which was signed seven weeks after the Bruins and Trojans were officially accepted.

The regents are ultimately responsible for both the Berkeley and Westwood campuses.

By imposing a tax on UCLA that would essentially serve as a subsidy for Cal, the regents would help the Bears offset the expected reduction in revenue.

It would also serve as a political victory for California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who blasted UCLA for its lack of transparency in the Big Ten move.

"No big deal, I'm the governor of the state of California," Newsom told Fox 11 Los Angeles in July. "Maybe a bigger deal is I'm the chair of the UC regents. I read about it.

"Is it a good idea? Did we discuss the merits or demerits? I'm not aware that anyone did. So it was done in isolation. It was done without any regental oversight or support."

During a series of meetings this fall, the regents have addressed UCLA's decision on two fronts:

  • The merits of rescinding the move, with all the legal and financial consequences; and
  • The impact UCLA's exit could have on both campuses.

Are the travel demands for all UCLA athletes reasonable?

What impact could the reduced revenue have on Cal athletes?

After the board gathered at UCSF last month, regent John Perez used a football analogy when speaking to a small group of assembled reporters:

"This was a call made on the field, and now we're reviewing the call, seeing if there's some substantive reason why the call should be overturned."

Then he added:

"Regardless of whether they (UCLA) stay or go, regardless of whether Cal was impacted by the decision or not, what are our expectations for improvement of student-athlete experience everywhere?

"Those are the questions that are still actively there."

Guessing along with the regents is a fool's game, but don't ignore the potential for a so-called UCLA tax.

Funneling a portion of the Big Ten revenue to Berkeley could meet expectations for an improved athlete experience "everywhere" — and give Newsom a win.

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Jon Wilner
Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline is brought to KSL.com through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group.

Jon Wilner has been covering college sports for decades and is an AP Top 25 football and basketball voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter. He was named Beat Writer of the Year in 2013 by the Football Writers Association of America for his coverage of the Pac-12, won first place for feature writing in 2016 in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest and is a five-time APSE honoree. You can follow him on Twitter @WilnerHotline or send an email at jwilner@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Pac-12 Hotline: Subscribe to the Pac-12 Hotline Newsletter. Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.

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