“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela
Those were the words written under Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren’s email signature when he received UCLA Chancellor Gene Block’s application to the Big Ten on Thursday, June 30 at 9:42 am PT (according to an email acquired by 247Sports via an Open Records Request).
It had, in fact, seemed impossible.
The bombshell news that UCLA and USC planned to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten ahead of the 2024-25 season would not break until more than half and hour later at 10:23 am, but by then the work was done. The two Los Angeles-based Pac-12 programs had been snatched away from the Pac-12, seemingly in an instant.
Like the news of Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 a year prior, UCLA and USC departing the Pac-12 took everyone by surprise, including the Pac-12’s commissioner George Kliavkoff.
247Sports acquired more than 160 pages of emails from UCLA from between the dates of June 27-July 1 as part of an ongoing open records request, and while those emails don’t shed much light on the Bruins’ process of negotiating with the Big Ten , they do provide a window into the blowback within the UCLA community that has since sprung because of the move.
Earlier this week, at a meeting of the University of California Board of Regents, a pair of regents went as far as to suggest it could block UCLA from joining the Big Ten. California governor Gavin Newsome has also railed against the move and the secrecy in which it took place.
And it certainly happened behind closed doors.
At 4:30 pm PT on June 30, UCLA Athletics Director Martin Jarmond emailed a group of UCLA professors and deans making things, well, officially official. He gave the group a 10-minute notice – with a heavy dose of confidential tags at the top – that UCLA would indeed be moving on from the Pac-12.
“After careful consideration and thoughtful deliberation, UCLA has decided to leave the Pac-12 Conference and join the Big Ten Conference at the start of the 2024-25 season,” the mass email read.
The blowback to the decision came swiftly after that (247Sports is choosing not to include the names of the emailers). Also, it’s important to note that of the dozens of emails 247Sports received in its request, none of them praised UCLA’s move to the Big Ten.
One of the first emails Block received after the news was blasted systemwide at 4:40 pm came via an employee from the school’s registrar office.
“Careful and thoughtful consideration which did not involve the UCLA community and is a complete shock to the whole country,” the emailer wrote. “100+ years of conference history thrown away. This is an outrageous disgrace.”
That tone toward Block and Jarmond was a regular theme in the emails 247Sports acquired. As one UCLA undergrad said: “Shame on y’all.”
Said one UCLA alumnus: “I sincerely hope the reports that UCLA is considering joining the Big 10 Conference are false. It would be a terrible idea.”
Said another UCLA alumnus: “If the rumors of UCLA’s move to the Big-10 are true, it is a sad day for college sports. Many alums are not enthused by this latest, soulless money grab. Count me out.”
Said somebody who identified as a 1972 graduate of UCLA: “Please provide ALL DETAILS of the horrendously dumb decision to toss UCLA out of the Pac12 and into the HIDEOUS BIG 10 WITHOUT FIRST CONSULTING ALUMNI OR THE STUDENT BODY. How dumb can an administrator GET. What does Block think he is, a Supreme Court despot?!”
One alumnus of the University of California system and a nurse at UCLA health sent an extensive email to Block in reaction to the news of UCLA leaving the Pac-12 in which he expressed his disappointment and said he planned to keep his $20,000 athletics pledge.
“Losing connections to our Bay Area Los Angeleno’s and now unable to attend games in LA with Cal/Stanford/Oregon/Arizona family alumni which is rich in tradition and created memories for hundreds of thousands of families has soured our relationship with UCLA athletics and an idea we cannot support. The lack of foresight, or empathy to address that foresight, and in how your decision is personally affecting individuals that have paid your way to the ability to have a brand, is a slap in the face. All in the hopes of cashing in the interest of greed. Extremely disappointing in the times and considering our UCLA health mission and the issues we are going through as a community. Nobody cares about UCLA/Ohio State or Michigan in football or Michigan state in basketball, read your own internal polls if you don’t believe me.
And lastly, as an RN we will not be waking up at 9 am to watch a UCLA game on the east coast after a 14-hour shift on a Friday night, nor will we support the big 10 as pac10/12 alumni. We support your autonomy to make your decisions for student athletes, but after talking to hundreds of supporters both inside and outside of UCLA health, all of which are UCLA alumni, we cannot support the enthusiasm you hoped we would express and will hold any future donations .”
Another emailer asked two questions of the UCLA officials:
- How is the planned move to the Big Ten consistent with UCLA’s commitment to the health, well-being, and academic success of its student athletes?
- How is the planned move to the Big Ten consistent with the commitment by UCLA, the UC System and the State of California to sustainability to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
None of the other emails 247Sports received as part of its open records request included replies. But this one elicited a response within the school between professor Eric MV Hoek and Chief Sustainability Officer Nurif Katz, who responded to Hoek’s internal reply confirming the sustainability concerns and offering to work with those within the school “to work towards solutions to the issues he raises .”
Said Katz to Hoek: I received a number of similar inquiries today from other alumni and alerted our media relations and our sustainability liaison for Athletics, Derek Doolittle. I would ordinarily work with them on the response and talking points for media (which Director Jarmond and others will review), but I would welcome you working with us. Now that the concern has been raised to the Chancellor we will also prepare an official response to the CCS on behalf of the Chancellor.”
UCLA is set to join the Big Ten in 2024-25, per the contract between the two parties 247Sports acquired. But as these emails have shown, the debate surrounding the move – who ultimately makes the decision, and if it’s good for the athletes and the school – will continue for a long time.