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UCLA Was in ‘Significant Debt’ Before Big Ten Move, Athletic Director Says

UCLA and USC shocked college sports fans last Thursday when the two schools announced they would be leaving the Pac-12 and joining Big Ten, which begins in summer 2024.

UCLA’s athletic director Martin Jarmond offered some further information regarding the transition, noting that UCLA’s athletic department was in “significant debt” before deciding to change conferences. 

At one point, the school considered cutting sports, although that timeline is unknown in regards to its decision to move to Big Ten.

“If you love Olympic sports, you should be a fan of this move,” Jarmond said, via the Los Angeles Times. “When your program is in significant debt, it’s difficult just to maintain, never mind to invest. This not only preserves the programs now—which was not a given—but also will allow us to invest in them. This move allows us to reimagine what UCLA athletics can be with more strategic investment and resources.”

According to the L.A. Times, the athletic department accrued $102.8 million in debt in the last three fiscal years. Over that timespan, payouts from the Pac-12 were much smaller than those from some of the top Power 5 conference like the Big Ten. Additionally, the Bruins’ football team continued to see a decrease in attendance numbers.

Now, Big Ten is expected to secure a $1 billion media rights deal. Apple is among the companies interested in making a deal with the league, but nothing is official yet. When a new media rights deal is signed, UCLA could receive around $100 million from the conference every year, depending on the terms of the contract. This would definitely help the athletic department’s reported deficit.

Because of the move, UCLA is not expected to cut any of its teams. Instead, the school will use the money to fund new facilities, travel expenses and coaches’ salaries.

Jarmond added that these additional resources could help UCLA secure its 120th NCAA sports title in school history.

“I constantly think about, how do we get No. 120?” Jarmond said. “How do we not only get to the Final Four, but win it all? How do we help the programs win and win big in this changing environment? These days, you have to be constantly increasing your resources to help coaches and student-athletes reach those goals and to stay competitive as a department. 

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

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