Should Oregon Move to the B1G? I’m Not Convinced

David Marsh Editorials

There are a lot of people talking about how getting into the B1G is a must for the Ducks to not be left behind. When the news first broke that USC and UCLA were headed to the B1G, I was certainly in this camp. I felt like Oregon needed to do everything they could to get into the B1G as soon as possible. That hasn’t happened, and there is absolutely no guarantee it will happen.

Many B1G members aren’t thrilled with the idea of traveling to L.A. approximately every two-to-four years right now, even though L.A. sits in the middle of a recruiting hot bed and is sunny. Sure, football games are a business trip, but I would say most people like business trips to some place warm, especially if their home is in the early grips of a Midwest winter.

Contrast that with Oregon and Washington, the most likely schools to get a B1G invite, which are typically cool and rainy once October rolls around. Oregon is also not a big recruiting state so most B1G schools can’t even see themselves using that road trip to realistically visit any recruits. Sure, Washington has more recruits, but they are still a far cry from Southern California.

Photo By: Eugene Johnson

Coming to Grips with the Money

Right now there is a knee-jerk reaction that Oregon needs to join the B1G because they will make more money. According to John Canzano, the Pac-12 should be getting a media deal around, or just above, the Big 12 media deal. So let’s be a bit generous here and say the media payout per school in the Pac-12 will be around $35 million. We’ll say they beat out the Big 12 by just a bit.

Then, take the numbers that are still being worked out by Kevin Warren’s bungled B1G media deal that was supposed to bring a massive windfall to each B1G school. The payout per school may be closer to $65-70 million rather than the $80+ million that it was originally projected to be.

The first reaction here is that on a per school basis, the B1G is making double that of a Pac-12 school, which is true.

However, it is irrelevant to look at the average B1G school when taking these numbers into account. Most B1G schools are getting a nice payday without having a thing change for how their programs are run, except they will have to travel to the West Coast every so often for a conference game, but at least it’s in L.A. for now.

UCLA Will Be the Test Case

So instead of looking at how this affects, say Ohio State or Michigan or even Rutgers, it is more important to address how this may impact the L.A. schools and their finances. We can’t realistically look at USC because they are private and they don’t need to release their numbers to the public, so they don’t. So we are left at looking at UCLA.

Photo By: David Pyles

For the 2022 athletic year, here are some numbers about how much revenue was generated and what it cost to run each athletic department within the Pac-12. Most people will get caught up on the first number, which is total revenue generated. However, the most important number isn’t actually listed: the amount of profit each school made. Athletic programs can lose money in any given year for a variety of reasons, such as fired coaches who are still being paid, but we are taking these numbers right now, which helps give us a sense of what they may look like in the future.

For example, Oregon was the number one revenue generating school, as the Ducks generated $153,510,555 in total revenue in 2022, good for No. 19 nationally. The Ducks then spent $140,565,297 in total expenses this last year. This means that Oregon Ducks Athletics generated $12,945,258 in profit this last year, which is good, because the program made money.

By contrast, Washington was No.2 in the Pac-12 in terms of revenue generation, but their program actually lost $4,274,059. Does this mean Washington athletics is unhealthy? Not financially, but any association with the University of Washington is unhealthy. It is entirely possible that next year will put Washington back in the black. This is just a snap shot.

UCLA, which ranked seventh in the Pac-12 this last year, lost $28,045,569! This screams of UCLA needing to get a bigger payday and why they teamed up with their crosstown rival to stab the conference in the back. On first look, if you take the previously mentioned $65-70 million dollar media rights payment, that would appear to wipe out this year’s debt and start building profit for UCLA right away.

But that would be the wrong way to look at it. That assumes that nothing changes with UCLA’s current expenses, which is a completely false assumption.

Photo By: Craig Strobeck

As mentioned earlier, B1G teams are griping about having to travel to the West Coast once every few years. UCLA and USC are going to have to travel significant distances for roughly half their conference schedule. It is no surprise that USC and UCLA are projected to be the two most traveled teams in the B1G in 2024, and it’s not even close. UCLA is even traveling more than what is listed, as they have non-conference games at LSU and Hawaii. So UCLA will actually travel more than 26,000 miles.

That is going to cost a lot of money for just football, and now, extend those travel expenses to all their other sports. Don’t think they could potentially combine trips into one long road trip, as these athletes are still expected to be students and they will need to actually go to class at some point.

UCLA also has the added burden of having to pay Cal to help subsidize their athletics, as UCLA’s leaving the Pac-12 will impact Cal as well. Cal, by the way, was ranked No.5 on the list of revenue generating Pac-12 schools, and they actually made a little money.

UCLA’s revenue will increase, but so will their expenses. I was unable to find out how much money it costs for college sports teams to travel, but it isn’t cheap under normal circumstances. The nearest school in the B1G to L.A. is in Lincoln, Nebraska, and that will take approximately four hours of flight time — roughly double the time it takes to fly to Boulder, Colorado, which is the easternmost school in the Pac-12 today.

When 2024 rolls around keep an eye on these numbers for UCLA and look to see how much money UCLA made from joining the B1G. I’d wager that Oregon will probably continue to make more money than UCLA, and turning a profit is more valuable than raw revenue generation.

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo By: Craig Strobeck


Andrew Mueller, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.

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