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UC System report: USC, UCLA departure to Big Ten to cost Pac-12 schools more than $10M each

It’s only been a couple of months since USC and UCLA announced they’d be leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten, but already, University of California regents are anticipating a big financial hit.

The board met Wednesday in Westwood to discuss the move, which a UC system report found will negatively impact Cal Berkeley — the only other Pac-12 member in the UC system — the most, possibly resulting in an eight-figure hit.

The lack of a team in the Southern California market will likely hurt sports viewership on television and may impact ticket and apparel sales, the report found.

Board Chair Richard Leib thanked Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose criticism aimed at UCLA made headlines, as he is an ex officio member of the UC board. Newsom was not present on Wednesday.

“I agree with him that with the public nature of this issue, transparency is vital,” Leib said.

Board member Eloy Ortiz Oakley also was sure to point out that the focus should remain on the student-athlete, whom the Wall Street Journal noted will likely face “nightmare travel days” when the schools bolt for the Big Ten, a conference mostly based in the Midwest.

That transition is expected to happen by 2024.

“I hope we spend as much time on student-athlete success, academic success, as we have on this conversation about the Big Ten,” Oakley said.

Whatever their distaste for the departure of the Trojans and Bruins, not much can be done. USC is a private institution outside of the UC Regents’ control, and all UC schools have been allowed to run their own athletics programs since 1991.

The board on Wednesday proposed new rules that would prevent other UC schools from following UCLA or joining another conference without the input of regents, but that won’t be voted on until September, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In the meantime, the move is expected to help UCLA’s athletic department climb out of $100 million deficit.

Before the pandemic, the Big Ten paid its member schools nearly twice what the Pac-12 did, and the Midwest-based conference is reportedly nearing another huge deal for media rights with CBS and NBC, which could further line the pockets of the L.A. schools.

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