California governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday demanded that the University of California, Los Angeles, explain how its leaving the Pac-12 conference for the Big Ten will benefit all its athletes and honor its relationship with UC Berkeley, the only UC campus that will be left behind—and that will likely take a big financial hit in a conference weakened by the loss of UCLA and the University of Southern California, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“The first duty of every public university is to the people—especially students,” Newsom said in a statement. “UCLA must clearly explain to the public how this deal will improve the experience for all its student-athletes, will honor its century-old partnership with UC Berkeley, and will preserve the histories, rivalries, and traditions that enrich our communities.”
Newsom attended a meeting of the University of California board to raise the issue. The discussion was behind closed doors.
UCLA and Berkeley declined to comment.
As governor, Newsom does not have the authority to squelch the deal. But as a regent, he could ask his board colleagues to consider directives to UCLA about the deal—to explain it publicly or to propose ways to mitigate the financial fallout on Berkeley. The UC Office of the President delegated authority in 1991 to campus chancellors to execute their own contracts, including intercollegiate athletic agreements.
Ben Chida, the governor’s chief adviser on education, said, “It’s about more than sports and more than money … It’s about public trust. It’s about student-athlete mental health. And it’s about honoring the partnerships, histories and traditions that have lasted a century.”
The Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday that the University of California Board of Regents announced that "it will scrutinize UCLA’s Pac-12 exit and issue a public report on the effect on student-athletes and the ripple effect on UC Berkeley and other campuses."