In a letter submitted to the UCLA Board of Regents before a closed session Thursday to discuss UCLA’s proposed move to the Big Ten Conference, Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkov outlined his “significant concerns” about the move, including student-mental health. For athletes, increased travel and operating costs, negative effects on both Cal’s revenue and climate goals for the UCSD system.
Klivakov’s letter was submitted in response to a request from the referees regarding the conference’s view on the University of California’s move, according to a source.
“Despite all the explanations offered after the fact, it was clear that UCLA’s decision to join the Big Ten was financially motivated after the UCLA Sports Division had accumulated more than $100 million in debt over the past three financial years,” Kliavkoff wrote. .
From there, he explained that the increased revenue UCLA would have will be fully offset by the increased costs from increased travel, the need for competitive salaries within the Big Ten and game guarantee expenses.
“UCLA currently spends approximately $8.1 million annually on travel for its teams to compete in the Pac-12 conference,” Kliavkov said. UCLA will incur a 100% increase in its team’s travel costs if it takes commercial flights in the Big Ten (8.1 million increase annually), a 160% increase if it charters half-time ($13.1 million annually), and a 290% increase percent if they charter each flight (an increase of $23 million per year).”
Kliavkoff did not say how those numbers were calculated or indicate whether there was a real belief that UCLA would consider charter travel for teams other than football and basketball.
According to a source familiar with UCLA’s internal estimates of the increased cost of travel, the school is operating with the expectation that it will spend approximately $6-10 million more annually on travel in the Big Ten versus the Pac-12.
Klyavkov speculated that moving to the Big Ten would also cause UCLA to spend more on salaries to align with conference standards. He estimated that UCLA would need to raise the athletics department’s salaries by about $15 million for UCLA to reach the average in the top ten.
“Any financial gain UCLA will make by joining the Big Ten will ultimately end up going to airlines, charter airlines, salaries for administrators and coaches, and other beneficiaries rather than providing any additional resources to student-athletes,” Klyavkov said.
A UCLA spokesperson declined to comment.
In an interview with The New York Times, Michael F. Drake, the president of the University of California, who was the former president of Ohio State, “There are no decisions. I think everyone collects information. It’s an evolving situation.”
In addition to UCLA’s financial impact, which is widely understood to be the main driving factor for UCLA’s move to the Big Ten, Kliavkoff said it would also hurt Cal, which, like UCLA, also oversees the UC system. As media rights negotiations continued, Klyavkov said it would have been difficult to reveal the exact impact without disclosing classified information, but he emphasized that the conference is soliciting bids with or without UCLA in the fold.
Besides the additional financial component of travel, Klyavkov said that “media research published by the National Institutes of Health, studies by the NCAA, and discussions with student-athlete leaders,” will have a negative impact on the mental health of student-athletes. It takes away from their academic pursuits. It would also be a burden for the family and alumni to face cross-country trips to see UCLA teams play, he added.
Finally, Kliavkoff said the additional travel goes against the UC system’s climate coal and works against UCLA’s commitment to “climate neutrality” by 2025.
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