There has been a lot of discussion in recent months about how the University of California Regents could block UCLA‘s planned move to the big ten. Well, it turns out that was all smoke and mirrors.
UCLA’s move to the Big Ten was easily approved by the UC Regents in an 11-5 vote–with some conditions. UCLA will have to pay millions of dollars to UC Berkeley yearly to make up for the lost revenue. They will also have to pay millions for the additional student body support the move will require. But at the end of the day, that’s all slim pickings compared to the money UCLA will make as part of the Big Ten.
Logically, this move by UCLA (and USC) makes very little sense. These two schools have long been cornerstones of the Pac-12, and it’s hard to see how that conference survives without them. It also is just kind of weird for an ostensibly midwestern league in the Big Ten to contain two LA schools. The logistics of that travel are not kind to student-athletes, especially for non-scholarship sports. (Again, the UC Regents, in approving the move, asked for UCLA to commit significant monetary resources to ease this burden on the students, but we’ll see if that actually makes a difference.)
And maybe most importantly, USC and UCLA will be moving to a tougher league that they are far less likely to win. That’s especially strange considering that the soon-to-be-implemented expanded College Football Playoff is going to allow for automatic bids for conference winners. Oh, and you know how the Rose Bowl is filled with vacant seats–and in some weeks, is nearly empty–pretty much every year during UCLA games? UCLA better get that fixed quick, or else that stadium is going to be filled with Scarlet when Ohio State comes into town.
And then there’s the Rose Bowl, perhaps the best and most prestigious bowl of them all. Historically, that game has been a Big Ten vs Pac-12 matchup. What happens if UCLA or USC gets slotted as the Big Ten team? Are two west coast schools going to play each other? That seems like it would be kind of dumb.
The Reason For UCLA’s Move
But the reason this move is happening, despite all of that, is very simple: Money. UCLA is in serious debt. They lost a lot of money during the pandemic. And with the absolutely massive new TV contracts the Big Ten just signed this is going to be a significant pay raise for the LA rivals. Money talks in this world and things are no different when it comes to College Football.
Ultimately, this is just another falling domino in what is a massively changing college football landscape. The days of this being a regional sport with old-time rivalries are, for the most part, over. A lot of people are against the expanded College Football Playoff because they believe it will remove a lot of the authenticity of what CFB has been in the past. But truthfully, those days have already ended. We already have a jillion bowl games. Most of them don’t matter. The sport is already more national than regional with the CFP. And the realignment of the early 2010s already killed off a lot of old-time rivalries and conference authenticity.
This is simply the next wave of things, and it started when Texas and Oklahoma announced they were planning on leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. That kicked off the current wave of realignment, and nobody wants to be left behind. The Pac-12 may not be long for this world, and on some level, they do bare some responsibility. The quality of football in recent years there has been poor, and they are more or less of an afterthought in the Power 5.
The future of College Football is likely a league that looks more like the NFL, with super conferences, massive national TV contracts, players being paid, and an expanded playoff bracket. Not all of those are necessarily bad. I would argue the latter two are positive developments. And people will always tune into football, regardless of the details.
But for UCLA, for their winning prospects, for the well-being of their students, and for the quality of football in the Big Ten, I remain skeptical of this move. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a move UCLA more or less had to make, and that we’re only going to see more moves like this in the future. Like it or not, for better or for worse, college football is changing. And oftentimes, change is inevitable.