In a letter given to the University of California Board of Regents before a closed session Thursday to discuss UCLA’s proposed move to the Big Ten conference, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff detailed “serious concerns” he had with the move, including student. -athlete mental health, increased travel and operating costs, and negative impacts on both Cal’s revenue and the UC system’s climate goals.
Klivakoff’s letter was provided in response to a request from the regents about the conference’s perspective on UCLA’s move, according to a source.
“Despite all explanations made after the fact, UCLA’s decision to join the Big Ten was clearly financially motivated after UCLA’s athletic department managed to accumulate more than $100 million in debt over the past three fiscal years,” Kliavkoff wrote.
From there, he made the case that the increased revenue UCLA would receive would be completely offset by the increased costs coming from increased travel, the need for competitive salaries within the Big Ten and game guarantee costs.
“UCLA currently spends approximately 8.1 million per year on travel for its teams to compete in the Pac-12 conference,” Kliavkoff said. “UCLA will receive a 100% increase in its team travel costs if it flies commercial in the Big Ten ($8.1 million increase per year), a 160% increase if it charters half the time ($13.1 million per year), and a 290% percentage increase if it charters every flight (an increase of $23 million per year).”
Kliavkoff did not cite how those figures were calculated or indicate whether there was an original 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 increased travel costs, the school is working with the expectation that it will spend about $6-10 million more per year on travel in the Big Ten versus the Pac-12.
A move to the Big Ten, Kliavkoff speculated, would also lead to UCLA spending more on salaries to match conference standards. He estimated that UCLA would have to increase its athletic department salaries by about $15 million for UCLA to reach the average in the Big Ten.
“Any financial gains that UCLA will achieve by joining the Big Ten will end up going to airlines and charter companies, salaries of administrators and coaches and other recipients rather than providing additional resources for student-athletes,” Kliavkoff said.
A UCLA spokeswoman declined comment.
In an interview with the New York TimesUC President Michael V. Drake, who was previously the president at Ohio State, said, “No decisions. I think everyone is gathering information. It’s an evolving situation.”
Beyond the financial impact for UCLA, which is widely understood to be the main driving factor in UCLA’s move to the Big Ten, Kliavkoff said it will also hurt Cal, which, like UCLA, is also controlled by the UC system. With media negotiations ongoing, Kliavkoff said it’s difficult to reveal the exact impact without revealing confidential information, but confirmed the conference is soliciting offers with and without UCLA in the fold.
Beyond the financial component of the added travel, Kliavkoff said “published media research from the National Institutes of Health, studies conducted by the NCAA, and discussions with our own student-athlete leaders,” will have a negative impact on the mental health of student-athletes. and take away from their academic pursuits. He added that it would also be a burden on family and alumni to face cross-country trips to see UCLA’s teams play.
Ultimately, Kliavkoff said added travel runs counter to the UC system’s climate goals and works against UCLA’s commitment to “climate neutrality” by 2025.