In what might go down as one of the most monumental days in the history of UCLA athletics, the Bruins could learn Thursday whether their surprise move to the Big Ten Conference can proceed without interference from the University of California’s governing body.
After months of assessing the possible benefits and drawbacks of UCLA’s defection from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten alongside USC in August 2024, the UC Regents could provide clarity during their meeting at UC Mission Bay about whether they intend to block the move or step aside.
The meeting’s agenda was revised Tuesday to add an action item that would allow the regents to intervene or withdraw any objections in the event there is a consensus during the open session. UCLA chancellor Gene Block and athletic director Martin Jarmond are expected to attend the meeting.
Clarity on the move is critical for UCLA’s athletic department with football signing day next month and logistics issues needing to be sorted out well in advance of the Bruins playing their first games as members of the Big Ten.
Among the issues that will be discussed by the regents Thursday are additional spending UCLA has committed to providing for its athletes because of the increased travel associated with a coast-to-coast conference, as well as the results of a joint survey conducted by UCLA and the UC president’s office.
In a report provided to the regents, UCLA estimated it would spend between $9.15 million and $10.32 million on new nutrition, travel, academic support, and mental health services expenditures related to the move, an amount school officials believe will be more than offset by additional revenue.
The 111 UCLA athletes who responded to the survey made one thing clear: They value being in the same conference as USC far more than they do California, the other school in the UC system that would be most affected by the Bruins’ defection to the Big Ten. Among survey respondents, 93% said it was important or very important to keep UCLA in the same conference as USC, while 24% felt the same way about keeping UCLA and Cal in the same conference.
Asked about UCLA’s move to the Big Ten, 35% of respondents said it would be a good idea, 20% said they had no opinion, 38% said they would need more information and 7% said it would be a bad idea.
When it came to their concerns regarding the move, with multiple answers allowed, 77% identified increased travel times, 66% said increased class time, 48% said travel and competition in colder weather, 43% said the impact on mental health and 38% said the impact on physical health
As for the benefits of the move, 77% said increased national exposure, 69% said increased resources, 59% said increased TV opportunities, 56% said greater NIL opportunities, 53% said enhanced services to student-athletes, 43% said compete at the highest level, 30% said increased attendance at all games and 28% said maintain the USC rivalry.
The biggest expenditure related to conference realignment would involve increased travel costs. UCLA estimated that it would have to pay an extra $4.62 million to $5.79 million for additional charter flights, though that figure could be “significantly reduced” through scheduling accommodations such as neutral-site games and shared flights for UCLA and USC teams.
UCLA also has allocated $2.927 million to enhance nutritional support, providing breakfast and lunch on weekdays for all teams while expanding snack options throughout the day and adding two dieticians and 10 part-time student workers to staff a snack station.
Additionally, the school would pay $1.036 million to double the number of learning specialists from three to six, increase full-time “academic excellence” staff to 22 and expand its summer bridge program from 30 to 100 students, allowing half of all new athletes to enroll in summer school while adjusting to their curriculum. UCLA would also provide a $500 stipend to all athletes to purchase Wi-Fi, hot spots, headphones and other accessories related to remote learning.
Finally, UCLA would provide $562,800 for two new licensed therapists to join the staff of 3.5 mental health service providers, reducing wait times for appointments and providing enhanced care, while also allocating $252,000 for education, preventive measures and direct psychiatric care to help with sleep, eating disorders, substance abuse and other acute conditions.