UC Board of Regents delays decision on UCLA move to Big Ten

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SAN FRANCISCO — The University of California Board of Regents has scheduled a special meeting for Dec. 14 in Los Angeles to finalize a decision on UCLA’s planned move to the Big Ten Conference.

Regents set the date during a meeting in San Francisco on Thursday, the second public session where the move was debated.

UCLA announced on June 30 that it was leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024, a decision that quickly drew the ire of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

In 1991, campus chancellors were delegated authority by the UC Office of the President to execute their own contracts, including intercollegiate athletic agreements. But the regents heard during an August meeting that they retain the authority to review decisions impacting the UC system, meaning they could affirm, overturn or abstain from following up on UCLA’s decision.

The University of Southern California is also moving to the Big Ten, but it’s a private institution and not part of the UC system.

UCLA chancellor Gene Block and athletic director Martin Jarmond took questions Thursday from the regents on the benefits of the move and their concerns.

Block said the university’s athletic budget will add at least $10 million for additional nutritional, academic and mental health support for athletes and add more charter flights to cut down on travel time. A report in August said eight of UCLA’s 23 sports – baseball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, softball, gymnastics and women’s volleyball – would experience additional travel impact.

A report published by the regents for this week’s meeting estimates that UCLA will see $60 million to $70 million in additional revenue from the Big Ten’s new media rights deal that begins next year. Even factoring in the additional expenses, the Bruins would still see a significant windfall compared to the $34.3 million in media rights and conference distribution it received in 2020, according to the report.

The Pac-12 is also negotiating a new media rights deal, but it is not expected to come close to what the Big Ten receives.

The move would also largely wipe out a $102.8 million deficit in the athletic department. UCLA secured a loan to cover losses, which the athletic department is responsible for repaying with interest.

Initial responses to a survey commissioned by the regents showed many of the UCLA athletes who had participated favored the move. Out of 111 athletes who responded, 35% said joining the Big Ten would be a good idea compared to 7% who thought it was a bad idea. More than one-third of the respondents (38%) said they needed more information and 20% had no opinion.

Nearly 600 surveys were sent out and the regents are hoping more are returned before next month’s meeting.

The regents could require UCLA to pay Cal an exit fee for leaving the Pac-12 or share TV revenues they will gain from a move. UCLA and Cal have played each other in football since 1923.

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.