It was a smashing move with a silent beneficiary.
The timing is uncertain and the number of teams that would have been affected is unknown, but the Bruins were on their way to an Olympic sport of Armageddon without the infusion of cash that will be accompanied by his departure from the Pac-12 conference in 2024.
Now the 25 teams and more than 700 athletes can exhale in the knowledge that their future is secured, making those Big Ten country cross-country flights and frigid midwinter temperatures that much more bearable.
“If you like Olympic sports, you should be a fan of this move”, UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond told The Times Tuesday. “If your program is heavily in debt, it’s hard to sustain, let alone invest. This not only maintains today’s programs – which was not self-evident – but also allows us to invest in them. This move allows us to rethink what UCLA athletics can be with more strategic investment and resources.”
In the past three fiscal years, UCLA’s athletics division had run up a $102.8 million deficit that was only exacerbated given the school’s declining football attendance and paltry Pac-12 payouts that lagged those of major conference teams. counterparts. Now it’s conceivable that the Bruins could receive $100 million a year from the Big Ten if the expanded conference can snag the projected $1 billion media rights deal that kicks off in 2024.
In the space of one or two years, UCLA’s deficit could turn into a surplus, and budget concerns are as much a holdover as the Bruins living in the Pac-12 South.
That instant wealth should prevent the kind of crisis Stanford was in two years ago, when it announced it was cutting 11 sports due to budget constraints. A year later, amid a backlash of lawsuits and fear among athletes, the school reversed course and kept the athletics department intact.
Lacking similar rescue, others were not so fortunate. More than 30 colleges nationwide have divested sports in the past 2½ years, citing fiscal hardships primarily caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
UCLA won’t make it onto that list thanks to the new benefactor, allaying austerity concerns. The increased resources will include more money for facilities, travel and salaries for coaches, even for the four programs—beach volleyball, men’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s water polo—that won’t make the move to the Big. Ten because the conference doesn’t sponsor those sports.
“I’m constantly thinking, how do we get to No. 120?” Jarmond said, referring to UCLA’s quest for the next NCAA team title. “How do we not only get to the Final Four, but win everything? How do we help the programs win and win in this changing environment? Today, you constantly need to increase your resources to help coaches and student-athletes achieve those goals and stay competitive as a department.
“We want to bring more tension and energy into our teams. We want more exciting games in the Rose Bowl, more fun in Pauley Pavilion. I think about it, how can we help softball not only advance to the College World Series, but win it all again? Our student-athletes deserve an elite experience, and this move will play an important role in our ability to provide that for them.”
Giving them a chance to just compete was perhaps the greatest gift of all.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times†