UC Regents Blocking UCLA’s Move to Big Ten Could Have Consequences

Any attempt by the University of California regents to block UCLA’s move to the Big Ten could jeopardize the way the governing body conducts business, a former chief of staff to a UC president said.

John Sandbrook, who served as chief of staff to former UC President Mark Yudof and a long-time assistant chancellor of UCLA under Charles Young, told The Times that regents trying to thwart a business transaction properly under his control by a university chancellor delegation of authority has been done, a chilling effect on future dealings of any kind with any third party for all 10 UC campuses.

“Other members of the regency board should think about that,” said Sandbrook, who served from 1974 until his retirement from UC in 2010.

Two regents told The Times on Wednesday that they believed their governing body retained the authority to prevent UCLA from leaving the Pac-12 in 2024, though they did not say the authority would be exercised.

“All options are on the table,” Regent John Perez said.

Asked whether he would prefer to scrap the deal, board chairman Richard Leib told The Times it was “premature” to make that decision or evaluate whether other regents would support taking steps to support UCLA’s move. to block the Big Ten. While several regents expressed concerns about the impact on athletes’ health and academic performance due to longer travel times, Leib said these could be mitigated. For example, using more charter flights would be less strenuous than commercial flights, he said.

Some regents said during Wednesday’s meeting that their objection was that they had not been informed of UCLA’s change in affiliation with the conference and that they preferred proposed new rules to require more communication.

The majority of regents, along with Gov. Gavin Newsom, have expressed concerns about how UCLA’s move — alongside city rivals USC — could financially overwhelm UC Berkeley, while also increasing pressure on UCLA athletes due to the travel burden associated with competing in a conference of one coast to the other.

When UCLA announced its intention to go for the Big Ten in late June, Chancellor Gene Block and athletic director Martin Jarmond praised the move’s ability to bolster their athletic department amid a rapidly changing college sports landscape. The move would bring huge financial benefits, expand the school’s recruiting base, and bring a level of prestige unmatched by continued membership of the Pac-12.

If the regents reversed UCLA’s defection, Sandbrook said, he wondered if the Big Ten could sue them for interfering with their new multi-billion-dollar media contract agreed on the understanding that UCLA would soon join the conference. would be.

The debate over UCLA’s ability to unilaterally switch conference centers over a 1991 UC system policy that delegated the power to campus chancellors to execute their own contracts, including peer athletic agreements. Charlie Robinson, general counsel for the UC system, said during the regents meeting on Wednesday that the board chairman could replace that authority.

“A mechanism would be for the [regent] chairman of the board to say, ‘I instruct you to resign in this case,’ said Robinson, ‘and the board of directors will exercise authority in this area.’

To protect themselves from similar problems in the future, the UC system leadership has proposed new rules that could prevent campuses from making important decisions about athletic contracts on their own. The regents are expected to vote on the proposal at their September meeting in San Diego.

Sandbrook said he could only recall two instances where UC regents overturned or altered the actions of a university chancellor or president under existing delegations of authority.

In 1970, the board of regents overturned UCLA Chancellor Charles Young’s decision to rehire Angela Davis as acting assistant professor of philosophy after she identified herself as a member of the Communist Party.

In 1996, the board of regents informally asked UC President Dick Atkinson to change his decision to delay the implementation of affirmative action-related resolutions by a year.

Sandbrook questioned whether the regents had the legal authority to retroactively revoke Block’s decision communicated to Michael V. Drake, president of the UC System. In addition, Sandbrook wondered if the regents wanted to create the kind of chaos that intervening in this case would cause.

“If the regents set the precedent that any action taken under delegations of authority can be undone by the board,” Sandbrook said, “any loan agreement for a new campus building, the acceptance of a gift, the naming of a building — all of those things would then be up for discussion.”

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