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

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It was a splashy move with a silent recipient.

Given the perilous finances of its athletics department, UCLA faced the prospect of cutting sports if the school did not agree to rush to the Big Ten conference.

The timing is uncertain and the number of teams that would have been affected is not known, but the Bruins were headed for an Olympic sporting Armageddon without the infusion of cash that will come with his departure from the Pac-12 Conference. in 2024.

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

“If you love Olympic sports, you should be a fan of this decision,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond told The Times on Tuesday. “When your program is heavily indebted, it’s hard to sustain it, let alone invest. This not only makes it possible to preserve the current programs—which was not certain—but also allows us to invest in them. This move allows us to reimagine what UCLA athletics can be with more strategic investments and resources.

Over the past three fiscal years, UCLA’s athletic department had run up a deficit of $102.8 million that was only getting worse given the school’s declining football attendance and payouts. paltry Pac-12s that lagged behind their major conference counterparts. It’s now conceivable that the Bruins could receive $100 million from the Big Ten a year if the expanded conference can snag the projected billion-dollar media rights deal slated to begin in 2024.

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

These immediate riches should avert the kind of crisis Stanford found itself 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 athlete angst, the school reversed course and kept its athletic department intact.

Not having the same salvation, others were not so lucky. More than 30 colleges across the country have dropped out of the sportciting the budgetary difficulties created mainly by the COVID-19 pandemic.

UCLA won’t join that list thanks to its new benefactor, eliminating cutback worries. The increased resources will, among other things, provide more money for facilities, travel and coaching salaries, even among the four programs — beach volleyball, men’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s water polo — who won’t advance to the Big Ten because the conference doesn’t sponsor those sports.

“I constantly think about how to get number 120?” Jarmond said, referring to UCLA’s quest for their next NCAA tag team title. “How do 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 have to constantly increase your resources to help coaches and students -athletes achieve these goals and remain competitive as a department.

“We want to bring more enthusiasm and energy to our teams. We want more exciting games at the Rose Bowl, more fun at the Pauley Pavilion. I think, how can we help softball not just continue to make it to the College World Series, but win it all again? Our student-athletes deserve an elite experience, and this decision will play an important role in our ability to provide that to them.

Simply giving them a chance to compete was perhaps the greatest gift.


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