When UCLA and USC announced they were leaving the Pac-12 Conference for the Big Ten, one of my first thoughts was “What does Bill Walton think about it?”
He played college basketball for John Wooden at UCLA, winning two national titles and three straight national college player of the year awards. The Bruins retired his No. 32 jersey and Walton was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. After his Hall of Fame playing career, Walton emerged as one of the most outspoken and visible faces around the Pac-12.
What does he think of UCLA leaving for the Big Ten?
I asked Walton.
He asked for some time to think about it. Four months later, he emerged with some strong thoughts on the subject. Clearly, Bill Walton is not happy about any of it.
Walton has written a statement, presented here, unedited…
“UCLA’S WRONG TURN”
All progress requires change… not all change is progress,
I’m Bill Walton,
I’m a California native, resident, engaged citizen, voter, and taxpayer,
I’m a product of California’s terrific public school systems,
I’m a proud UCLA alum,
I am not in favor of UCLA’s recent announced decision to leave the Pac-12 Conference of Champions,
nor their desire to join the Big 10,
I don’t like this attempted move,
I don’t support it,
I hope it does not happen,
UCLA is a public school that is supposed to serve the interests of the State of California,
UCLA is one of the world’s greatest schools, and brands,
UCLA represents the best of what life has been, and can, could and should be,
UCLA has been as great and as important a part of my life as anything, ever,
I don’t believe that joining the Big 10 is in the best interest of UCLA, its students, its athletes, its alumni, its fans, the rest of the UC system, the State of California, or the world at large,
some of the many reasons why I am opposed to UCLA’s attempted move to the Big 10 are, in no particular order,
• the negative impact on the health, both physical and mental, of UCLA’s student-athletes,
the exponential increase in travel on UCLA’s student-athletes will hurt them physically, mentally, and in their overall lives,
• the negative impact of the excessive travel will extend to families, friends, fans, alumni and everyone else,
• the increased costs of joining the Big 10 will negate the projected increased revenue assumptions of this proposed move,
• this proposed move to the Big 10 is contrary to UCLA’s and the entire UC System’s stated and professed environmental sustainability goals,
• this proposed move to the Big 10 has serious negative implications and ramifications for the University of California, Berkeley,
and flies in the face of the supposed team concept that has always been a part of the California Dream, plan and business model,
• this proposed move to the Big 10, is all about football, and money,
• what about all the other 24 sports and 600+student-athletes at UCLA, who are responsible for 99+% of UCLA’s National Championships,
• how many of these “others” are represented and willing participants in this proposed deal,
I went to UCLA — gladly, willingly, and proudly,
it was my dream,
that dream never included the Big 10,
I have spoken to no one, other than the highest-level directors of athletics at UCLA, who think that this proposed move to the Big 10 is a good idea,
every argument made by these senior AD’s and why they like it, is about money,
these same proponents of moving to the Big 10, are the first people I have ever encountered in my life,
who have claimed economic hardship and limitations in Los Angeles,
and that the solution lies in the Midwest,
I have made my feelings known, privately, to the powers that be in the State of California, including the UC’s Board of Regents,
my hope and dream is that this proposed move by UCLA, my alma mater, will be rescinded,
• Bill Walton joined “Canzano & Wilner: The Podcast” for a candid conversation. The episode is available here. Listen as The Bay Area News Group’s Jon Wilner and I go in depth with Walton.
• Walton will also join me for a live radio interview at 3 p.m. on 750-AM in Portland.
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I’m 100-percent with Big Bill.
Again, John, you have given us access to information we otherwise might have never seen. Bill Walton, an active and never ceasing face of the "Conference of Champions" presents a very thoughtful and inclusive summary of the situation. I personally support his every word and appreciate Bill stating my feelings, but from a much more relevant platform. Thank you Bill, thank you John.