UCLA Olympic sports faced an uncertain future until the Big Ten moved on

It was a flashy move with a silent beneficiary.

Given the perilous finances of its athletics department, UCLA faced the possibility of cutting sports if the school had not agreed to participate in the Big Ten Conference.

The timing is uncertain and the number of teams that would have been affected is unknown, but the Bruins were headed for an Olympic sports Armageddon without the cash infusion that will accompany their exit from the Pac-12 Conference in 2024.

Now its 25 teams and more than 700 athletes can exhale knowing their future is secure, making those cross-country flights and frigid winter temperatures in Big Ten country that much more bearable.

“If you love Olympic sports, you should be a fan of this movement,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond told the Times on Tuesday. “When your show is in significant debt, it’s hard to just maintain it, let alone invest. Not only does this preserve the programs now, which was not a given, but it will also allow us to invest in them. This move allows us to re-imagine what UCLA athletics can be with more investment and strategic resources.”

Over the past three fiscal years, UCLA’s athletics department had racked up a $102.8 million deficit that would only get worse due to declining attendance at the school’s football and paltry Pac-12 payments that lagged behind their main counterparts of the conference. It is now conceivable that the Bruins could receive $100 million from the Big Ten per year if the expanded conference can snag the projected $1 billion media rights deal beginning in 2024.

See also  Health Insurance Exchange Market Size, Share, Future Growth and Opportunity Assessment 2021-2027 - InsuranceNewsNet

In a year or two, UCLA’s deficit could turn into a surplus, its budget worrying as much as a relic as the Bruins residing in the Pac-12 South.

Those immediate riches should avert the kind of crisis Stanford found itself in two years ago, when it announced it was cutting 11 sports because of budget constraints. A year later, amid a backlash of lawsuits and athlete angst, the school changed course and kept its athletic department intact.

Lacking a similar save, others were not so lucky. More than 30 universities across the country have divested from sports in the last two and a half yearsciting the fiscal difficulties created mainly by the COVID-19 pandemic.

UCLA won’t be joining that list thanks to its new benefactor, removing concerns about cuts. The increased resources will provide, among other things, more money for facilities, travel, and coaches’ salaries, including among the four programs (beach volleyball, men’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s water polo) that will not move to the Big Ten because the conference does not sponsor those sports.

“I constantly think, how do we get the number 120?” Jarmond said, referring to UCLA’s quest for its next NCAA team title. “How did we not only get to the Final Four, but win it all? How do we help programs win and win big in this changing environment? These days, you must constantly increase your resources to help coaches and student-athletes meet those goals and stay competitive as a department.

“We want to bring more excitement and energy to our teams. We want more exciting games at the Rose Bowl, more fun at Pauley Pavilion. I think about, how do we help softball not only continue to get to the College World Series but win it all over again? Our student-athletes deserve an elite experience, and this move will play a significant role in our ability to provide that for them.”

See also  Abe posed as 'Super Mario' to promote the Tokyo Olympics | Health & Fitness

Giving them the opportunity to simply compete may have been the greatest gift of all.