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The Cost of UCLA’s Move to the Big Ten

UCLA is officially headed to the Big Ten, but between travel, student-athlete investments, and a payment to UC Berkeley, the move comes at a cost.

One of the biggest shakeups in conference realignment history became official on Wednesday when the University of California Board of Regents cleared the way for UCLA to move to the Big Ten in 2024.

The 11-5 vote means the Bruins will soon compete in a conference other than the Pac-12 or its predecessors for the first time in almost a century. But it comes at a cost.

UCLA and fellow Pac-12 defector USC are about to be geographic outliers in the Big Ten, more than 1,500 miles away from the next-closest school. It’s going to create problems — additional travel costs, missed class time for student-athletes, and inconvenient game times for fans among them.

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Unlike USC, UCLA is a public school in the University of California system, which adds political considerations to the equation as well. The university’s departure leaves UC Berkeley at a significant disadvantage, having to stay behind in a league losing arguably its two biggest brands and the only Pac-12 schools in the second-biggest media market in the country.

As a result, UCLA has agreed to pay a to-be-determined subsidy to Cal, depending on the value of the next Pac-12 media rights deal. ESPN reports that the subsidy could fall between $2 and $10 million, paid at an unknown frequency.

UCLA will also make additional investments in student-athlete resources, totaling between $11 and $12 million$4.3 million will go directly toward food, dietician, and nutritional services for student-athletes, making sure they are well-fed both on campus and on road trips. The Los Angeles Times reports that UCLA has signed off on an additional $4.66 million to $5.83 million on chartered flights and other ways to ease the travel burden. UCLA will also direct money toward both mental health and academic services.

But fear not — the UCLA brass won’t be draining their bank accounts to make this work. The Big Ten just signed a seven-year, $7 billion media rights deal that will give UCLA between $65 and $75 million in its first year alone, per the Los Angeles Times.

And that, in case you forgot, is what this is all about. UCLA and USC are leaving tradition behind to double their media rights revenue and, probably, put themselves in a much better position to capitalize off of college football bowl payouts and NCAA Tournament distribution units. UCLA is more than $60 million in debt, and the administration is willing to spend even more while joining a conference centered in the midwest to help change that.

That seems to move the needle more than an annual football game with Stanford.

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About The Author
Russell Steinberg
Russell Steinberg
Russell Steinberg is an editor and writer at Boardroom. He came to the brand in 2021 with a decade of experience in sports journalism, primarily covering college basketball at SB Nation as a writer, reporter, and blog manager. In a previous life, he worked as a social media strategist and copywriter, handling accounts ranging from sports retail to luxury hotels and financial technology. Though he has mastered the subtweet, he kindly requests you @ him next time.