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Gavin Newsom Challenges UCLA’s Move to the Big Ten, and We Wonder Why

Here at the sports desk located somewhere below decks of the Good Pirate Ship RedState, we always take a dim view of political people inserting their publicity-seeking noses into sports matters. Instead, we greatly prefer the Ron DeSantis school of “you want it, you pay for it.” This is especially true in collegiate athletics, since 99.44 percent of all colleges and universities are so dysfunctional, they don’t need help from professional muck-makers.

The vast majority of college sports are at the shoestring-budget level, generally losing money and carried by the financial powerhouses of football and men’s basketball. The former is the NFL’s de facto minor league, while the latter is the NBA’s other minor league, alongside its own G League. That said, given the television ratings of a Duke vs. Kansas game, compared to a Birmingham Squadron vs. Fort Wayne Mad Ants matchup, perhaps the G League’s proper designation is college basketball’s minor league. But I digress.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, having solved all the not-so Golden State’s problems, has now devoted his attention to demanding UCLA explain itself regarding leaving the PAC-12 for the Big Ten. (Before anyone asks why he didn’t ask the same about USC, it is a private school and not part of the University of California public school system.) From the Los Angeles Times:

“The first duty of every public university is to the people — especially students,” Newsom said in a statement. “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.”

Newsom made an unusual appearance Wednesday at the San Francisco meeting of the UC Board of Regents, where he serves as an ex-officio member, to join the board’s closed-door discussion on the issue.

While debating the Cal-UCLA rivalry’s possible discontinuance is doubtless easier than explaining why the state refuses to invest in desalination plants to offset its recurring drought issues, it does beg the question of why Newsom should care. If UCLA wants to go to Columbus or Ann Arbor in November and get simultaneously slaughtered, plus freeze its SoCal fanny off, instead of Berkeley, where it stands a very good chance of winning (I’m a Cal fan, but I also live in Realville), why shouldn’t it? It’s all about the money.

Last month, when UCLA announced its migration to the Big Ten, university Chancellor Gene Block and athletic director Martin Jarmond touted the move’s ability to secure the financial future of an athletic department facing an unprecedented $102.8-million deficit.

The expected windfall from a new Big Ten media rights deal — which is expected to yield in excess of $1 billion — could more than double the yearly payout the Bruins would have received by remaining in the Pac-12, while sparing the school from a doomsday scenario — the elimination of some Olympic sports teams — it potentially faced by standing pat with diminished resources.

You’d think with tuition of between $36K and $63K a year, and some 31.6K undergraduates plus 14.3K graduate/professional students, UCLA wouldn’t be running such ridiculous deficits. Obviously, that six-figure salary for the third, part-time deputy sub-assistant to the fifth floor of a four-story building’s Vice President in charge of closet space won’t pay itself.

Speaking of deficits, a little digging reveals that to UC Berkeley (Cal), therefore the state, it’s … all about the money.

Ideas raised have included requiring UCLA to pay UC Berkeley a Pac-12 “exit fee” or share the TV revenue with its sister campus — conditions that the regents could potentially impose.

UC Berkeley is bracing for a multimillion-dollar hit once UCLA and USC leave the Pac-12 conference in two years, which will probably result in a huge loss in media revenue under a new TV contract.

The campus has been struggling with a structural deficit for years. Berkeley first announced a $150-million shortfall in 2016, which it successfully closed, only to face a larger hole of $340 million last year due to crippling losses in revenue from student housing, food and other sources along with increased costs during the pandemic. The campus has balanced its budget this year after pausing investments in lab renovation, deferred maintenance and other needs.

Still, the question remains why Newsom could or should give a rip. Maybe he’s trying to score points with Berkeley voters, which seems a tad redundant. Or, perhaps he’s trying to divert attention from how his recent attempt to create a rivalry with DeSantis ended in such a lopsided defeat, it serves as a precursor to the first time UCLA plays Ohio State.

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