Why was UCLA willing to leave the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten? The Bruins were in a financial hole that likely would have resulted in cutting Olympic sports.
USC, UCLA and the Big Ten are being accused of killing the Pac-12. The truth of the matter is the the Bruins were on the verge of killing some of their own sports programs. The move to the Big Ten will save them instead.
That’s according to reporting from Ben Bolch of the LA Times, who revealed the “perilous” state of UCLA’s athletic department finances on Tuesday.
“Over the last three fiscal years, UCLA’s athletic department had run up a $102.8-million deficit that figured only to worsen given the school’s sagging football attendance and paltry Pac-12 payouts that lagged behind its major conference counterparts,” Bolch wrote.
The Bruins “were headed toward an Olympic sports Armageddon,” per Bolch.
UCLA athletics were on the verge of cutting sports before Big Ten move
It’s not clear which sports might have been on the chopping block, but you can bet Olympic sports on the men’s and women’s side would have been affected.
Now, UCLA will be able to count on an estimated $100 million per year from the Big Ten to keep their athletic department afloat. The huge revenue addition should more than justify the complicated logistics of Big Ten travel if the alternative was axing sports.
The depth of the hole UCLA found itself in should come as no surprise to those in the Pac-12 footprint who have seen Stanford and Cal both struggle with their athletics department budgets
The next question is how those programs will survive now that UCLA and USC have hitched their wagon to the Big Ten.
Reports have the Big 12 interested in poaching Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah, Oregon and Washington from the Pac-12. Stanford, Cal, Oregon State and Washington State would be left out of that equation.