UCLA must pay $30M to UC Berkeley over Pac-12 divorce

UCLA got the divorce it wanted from the Pac-12. Now come the alimony checks to the campus it left behind.

The University of California’s governing board on Thursday ordered UCLA to pay UC Berkeley $30 million over three years to make up for leaving its rival campus behind in the collapsing Pac-12 athletic conference.

UCLA and the private University of Southern California left for larger media deals in the Big Ten in 2022 — taking the lucrative Los Angeles market with them. Their exit bored a hole in Pac-12 revenues, contributing to the conference’s eventual dissolution that forced Berkeley to accept a less profitable situation in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The abrupt decision irked Gov. Gavin Newsom and some of the UC Regents. UC President Michael V. Drake suggested requiring UCLA to hand over $60 million over six years, but a committee of the board cut the length of the punishment by half on Tuesday.

The full UC Regents Board — which oversees ten public university campuses in California — on Thursday voted 15-1 to force the payments to Cal that have come to be known as “Calimony.” The board decided to reevaluate the payments in three years due to the unpredictability of college athletics financing stemming from conference realignment, streaming service proliferation and athlete profits from their names, images and likenesses.

“We had a robust conversation on the dynamic nature of the landscape in collegiate athletics,” said Regent Mark Robinson. “Given the dynamics are going on, we thought it was prudent to revisit that in three years.”

The unprecedented financial penalty disconcerted a couple of the board’s members. Regent John Pérez was the only member to vote against the proposal during a full board vote, while Regent Keith Ellis opposed it during a committee vote Tuesday.

“We historically haven’t done anything like this where we take from one campus and give to another, playing I guess, Robin Hood,” Ellis said Tuesday. “I really had some strong reservations.”

Both athletic programs face budgetary shortfalls, which originally contributed to UCLA’s exodus.

The Regents were initially reluctant to approve UCLA’s move to the Big Ten, worrying not only about finances but about the academic impact on students who would have to travel to the East Coast frequently to compete. They eventually blessed the conference change in late 2022, but warned the Bruins would have to pay somewhere between $2 million and $10 million a year to Berkeley to make up for an expected gulf in profits.

The board eventually chose the top end of that range after the campuses inked TV deals that will draw disparate profits. UCLA will receive around $60 million a year in its new conference, while Cal will get $11 million.