UC Regents’ socialism drains Bruins innovation
UCLA head football coach Chip Kelly during the PAC12 media day. Photo credit: Ryan Dyrud | LAFB network
Socialism is a transformational system of government when the governed environment is consumed by abject poverty. Raising the majority in the middle class with a uniform quality of health care, education and social security subsidized by the ultra-privileged few eager to extend their impact, is a win-win society. Yet socialism crumbles when enough of these middle-class entrants believe, through their accomplishments, talents, and access, that they can do even better for themselves. The greater the meritocratic opportunity for the middle class, the greater the socialist construction that begins to disintegrate. In the end, the more realistic the scenarios are for individuals to rise above the middle class and further improve their socioeconomic status, the more socialism looks like a boring crutch preventing them from achieving their dreams.
I never thought, wanted or expected an article from the Los Angeles Football Network to reference politics…but here we are. Such is the fate of LA football this week because the UC Regents, following their Wednesday hearing, chiseled the issue of UCLA’s move to the BIG-10 into a political one.
UCLA Athletics is that middle-class entity among its institutional peers that has proven it can do better, and the regents are the socialist government trying to hold them back. Let’s get one thing straight – the Regents can’t, won’t, and should do nothing but defend this decision, if only for their own preservation. But let’s save the logical conclusions for the end of this article and briefly summarize how we got here.
The “not so simple” question at hand
Wednesday’s meeting of UC regents held at the Luskin Center on the UCLA campus was both political theater and a partial intervention mourning the end of a hierarchy. The Regents seemed bewildered by the complexities of a modern college athletics operating model and simultaneously hurt that their insufficient knowledge on the matter had not been sufficiently consulted. In the end, after a host of nebulous comments, they came up with a three-part recommendation. Namely, the UC President would retain authority over all matters relating to the athletics program (in lieu of the University Chancellors and Athletic Directors) under the following conditions:
- The proposed transaction has a negative impact greater than or equal to 10% on the revenue of the athletic department of any campus
- The proposed transaction raises an important question about university politics
- The proposed transaction will create reputational risk/damage to any UC campus
UCLA’s move to the BIG-10 doesn’t apply to points two and three, but where it gets interesting is at point one. As part of the Regents’ deliberation, the UC President’s Office estimated the value that USC and UCLA respectively place on the entire PAC-12. The results were profound – USC, given its unmatched West Coast football accomplishments and pedigree, contributed 30% of the conference’s value. While UCLA, given its historic and unprecedented contribution to the less revenue-generating sport of college basketball, contributed 10%.
The PAC-12’s next media rights deal with USC and UCLA was estimated to be $500 million per year across 12 teams, leading to an average amount of about $42 million per team. Now that USC and UCLA are gone, and taking their total 40% valuation with them, this deal will come closer to $300 million a year spread across 10 teams. That works out to around $30 million per team. That’s a $12 million shortfall for each team, where roughly $9 million is owed directly to USC and $3 million is courtesy of UCLA. Thus, the Regents’ “genuine” point of contention (or extravagant political theater) is that UCLA’s decision violates point one of their three recommendations.
Takeaway #1 – Recommendations Are Not Laws
Regardless of what you hear and read over the next few days, make sure this point remains unassailable in your mind: the recommendations are NOT legally binding.
The regents made a recommendation to the office of the UC president. It was not a constitutional code change, nor a drafting of statutes, and therefore has no legal weight behind it. It would be like writing a letter to your child’s dream school begging them to reconsider after their rejection. Nothing is going to happen except for an Oprah-like exercise in venting misplaced anger from your chest.
The Regents are giving the illusion of a thoughtful post-mortem analysis to distract California voters from inferring their embarrassment at having the most tectonic West Coast sports realignment in US history right under their noses.
Takeaway #2 – It’s not a UC problem, it’s a Cal problem
Eight of the UC schools have never been affiliated with the PAC-12 and have no horses in the race. The only school affected is Cal and the shame of the little brother leaving the big brother is the general resentment.
UCLA was founded in 1919 as “The Southern Branch of the University of California” (SBUC), its mascot was a Bruin because it’s a baby bear, and its colors are a lighter shade of blue like a ode to being a variant of UC Berkeley. Everything about UCLA’s token existence was meant to convey being in service to the more powerful, beacon, and all-powerful UC Berkeley. Now, for the first time in the history of this country’s public higher education infrastructure, a new flagship has emerged within an existing public system.
UCLA is now not only the #1 ranked public school for the past half-decade (usurping Cal), but also leaving them behind with the exclusive BIG-10 invite. Take any public education system – Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan. There has always been a clear pecking order, with Austin, Madison, Urbana-Champaign, and Ann Arbor being flagships and all other campuses being satellite locations.
For the first time, we are witnessing before our very eyes the transfer of power from one flagship to another, and the way systems of government, sports dynasties or technological conglomerates are dethroned, it can become petty, public and personal.
Takeaway #3 – UCLA WON a BIG-10 invite, Cal didn’t
The Bruins have earned the right to be part of the BIG-10. Their 11 national basketball championships and 2n/a most NCAA titles of all time, coupled with their 10 Sweet 16s and four Final Four appearances since 2000, instantly make them the centerpiece of BIG-10 crown basketball.
Trojans have earned the right to be part of the BIG-10. Their 11 national football championships, 3rd most NCAA titles of all time, and seven Heisman Trophy winners instantly make them the perennial co-football favorites (with Ohio State) of the faster conference. than any iconic. Reggie Bush landing.
Yes, the Bruins and Trojans made a proposal, but make no mistake, their athletic resumes spoke for themselves emphatically.
Cal didn’t earn the right to be in the BiG-10. Truth be told, they’re lucky to be all in the Power 5. Bears football has won the PAC-10/12 ONCE for the past 47 years, hasn’t been to the Rose Bowl since 1958, and basketball -ball Bears haven’t made it to a Final Four since 1960.
Cal’s problem isn’t UCLA leaving, but rather an apathetic fanbase, dilapidated facilities and eroding donor interest given the paltry success on the field. Golden Bears, look within for those practical, achievable, self-sustaining solutions rather than asking for a handout with the right to a baby in trust.
Takeaway #4 – If Regents Can’t Stop Tweeting, Pandora’s Box Is Paradoxical
If the regents know what’s good for them, they’ll let it go after putting on a great horse and pony show for their constituents this week. Because, the whole premise of their argument must be involved in athletics matters with a budgetary impact greater than or equal to 10%. Yet ONLY 6% of UCLA’s total annual operating budget comes from the state, with Cal having a similar level of support. From a financial point of view, UCLA is a private university that must adhere to this public infrastructure. He does this on purpose because the opportunity cost of making stories is not worth their time given the profound academic, research and social impacts they focus on.
Regents quickly took on the strategic relevance of the English royal family. They are more symbolic, archaeological and ceremonial than they care to admit. There’s also an unwritten Quid Pro Quo – “you can enjoy the social prestige of your roles as long as you stay in your lane.” If the Regents attempt to codify this 10% rule, it will have to apply to all university matters, and thus contradict their very existence given the state’s depleted 6% level of funding.
Regents are nothing if not politically astute, and they know a slippery slope awaits them if they keep banging on that drum. Self-preservation dictates not waking the sleeping Bruin.
It is fitting that this piece has a recommendation in the spirit of the Regential procedure. Cal will suffer a $12 million shortfall considering interstate rivals exiting the Midwest leg. $9 million goes to an entity, USC, over which the UC Regents have no jurisdiction.
Thus, if the regents are serious about embracing socialist construction, the UC president’s office should subsidize the $3 million shortfall (awarded by UCLA) from the overall UC budget. Cal is happy, UCLA is happy, and the Regents will have really done their job because they took care of the two UC voters.
Even considering UCLA subsidizing Cal is “selective socialism.” There’s another word for selective socialism… it’s called hypocrisy.