Canzano: "UCLA's leadership will be cowering for forgiveness."
A battle forming over the Bruins departure.
I cringed when I heard UCLA and USC announce they were leaving the Pac-12 Conference in 2024. I’m a traditionalist. I don’t like throwing away more than 100 years of conference history.
I was skeptical when I heard politicians might get involved and try to block UCLA’s departure to the Big Ten Conference. But the more I talk with lawmakers, the more I believe the Bruins’ biggest athletic battle this season will take place in Sacramento.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom isn’t happy that he didn’t know about UCLA’s departure. Maybe it’s posturing, maybe not. But what’s clear is that Newsom is fired up and wondering why the move wasn’t discussed and debated with the University of California Regents.
More than one athletic department source at UCLA confessed to me that they were surprised the defection news didn’t leak before the announcement.
Mike Baumgartner is a former State Senator in Washington. He’s served on a variety of educational and sports committees. He’s closely following all of this and sees some trouble forming on the horizon for the Bruins.
“The UC Regents themselves didn’t know what UCLA was up to and no public vote was taken,” Baumgartner said. “It’s still unclear what the majority of them think, but they could do anything from stop it outright to vote to make UCLA athletics subsidize any financial damage to Cal.”
A subsidy would be an interesting compromise. It would penalize UCLA and bolster Cal, but it wouldn’t ease the anxiety of the bondholders of the UC system. They might still litigate. The Bruins stand to rake in somewhere between $75 million to $100 million in annual media rights revenue under the Big Ten’s TV deal with Fox. Would having to share that windfall with Cal give UCLA pause? Or just serve as a speed bump on the road to the Midwest?
Baumgartner’s allegiance is to the Washington schools. But his expertise puts him in a unique position. He understands the dynamics better than most. He cautioned me to not listen too carefully to Political Science professors who are busy going on the record with various news outlets saying the Newsom doesn’t have the authority to block the move.
“Nobody knows less about how politics actually works than poli-sci professors,” Baumgartner said. “The leverage a Governor has over a public university is immense. If Newsom doesn’t want UCLA to go, they won’t be going.”
I’m interested to see how the Bruins might perform in football in the Big Ten. They’ve been to just one bowl game in the last six seasons and haven’t played in a Rose Bowl since 1998.
Chip Kelly went 8-4 last season and I think his team is going to be competitive again this year, but how many games would UCLA win in a typical Big Ten football season? TV money is great. And you’d rather not be left behind in college football’s minor leagues, but the remaining Pac-12 universities are buzzing about how challenging football will be for the Bruins.
What’s “making it” in the Big Ten for the Bruins’ football program? UCLA has won more than seven games only once in the last six seasons while playing in the Pac-12. Four times in that span, UCLA has won fewer than five games.
If the resolution ends up being a heavy subsidy, it’s possible UCLA is facing a lose-lose situation. If UCLA leaves for the Big Ten, gets its teeth kicked in, spends significant revenue on the extra travel, and has to cut Cal a big check at the end, is that really a win?
Said Baumgartner: “UCLA’s leadership will be cowering for forgiveness.”
I’ll update with more as this develops.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate all who have supported, subscribed and shared my new independent endeavor with friends and family in recent months. If you haven’t already — please consider subscribing.