Commentary: With attack on UCLA’s Big Ten move, Newsom conveniently forgets he pushed NIL domino

Gov. Gavin Newsom, in challenging UCLA’s move to the Big Ten, is now taking on the banner of the same university presidents that he shrugged off during the NIL debate.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Nearly three years ago, when Gov. Gavin Newsom joined LeBron James and his ensemble to sign California’s historic “Fair Pay to Play Act” into law on James’ HBO show “The Shop,” Newsom was more than happy to tell the truth about college sports. In fact, he seemed downright giddy.

“The jig’s up,” Newsom said on Sept. 30, 2019. “Billions and billions of dollars, 14-plus billion dollars goes to these universities, a billion-plus revenue to the NCAA themselves, and the folks who are putting their lives on the line, putting everything on the line, are getting nothing.”

Newsom rightfully predicted that Senate Bill 206, which allowed California college athletes to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL) for the first time, was going to induce a flood of similar legislation across the country, forcing the NCAA’s hand and forever altering the “power arrangement” between player and school.

Maverick Carter, James’ longtime friend, asked the governor who was the bill’s biggest opposition.

“School presidents,” Newsom said without hesitation. “They don’t even outsource the phone calls. ‘What the hell are you doing destroying college sports?’ … ‘You’re destroying the purity of amateurism.’ Not once did they talk about the needs of these kids.”

Right before signing the bill, there was a smugness about Newsom as he said, “I don’t want to say this is checkmate. But this is a major problem for the NCAA.”

Three weeks ago when UCLA ditched the Pac-12 Conference and University of California system peer UC Berkeley for the Big Ten, the big business of college sports suddenly became a major problem for Gavin Newsom.

Or at least that’s how he played it Wednesday when he blasted UCLA’s handling of its Pac-12 exit, saying that the public university was unacceptably secretive and disregarded the harm the move will bring to Berkeley and other league members. Once again showing a flair for the dramatic, he made an unusual appearance at the San Francisco meeting of the UC Board of Regents to join the board’s closed discussion on the issue.

“The first duty of every public university is to the people — especially students,” Newsom said. “UCLA must clearly explain to the public how this deal will improve the experience for all its student-athletes, will honor its century-old partnership with UC Berkeley, and will preserve the histories, rivalries, and traditions that enrich our communities.”

Newsom is now taking on the banner of the same university presidents that he shrugged off when it suited him on the high-profile NIL issue, the same higher education leaders who have watched their athletic departments lose their souls in pursuit of the almighty football dollar and looked the other way as the donations from proud alums piled up.

Thanks to the peculiar experiment that is American college sports, much of those donors’ pride over the years has been at least partly based on their alma maters’ athletic achievements and enjoying bragging rights over a rival.

Yet, the presidents of every California Pac-12 school lobbied hard against NIL because they feared — correctly — that college athletes receiving money of any kind, even from third parties and not the schools themselves, would inevitably lead to full-on professionalization, players being classified as employees and directly sharing in the revenues they’ve helped to produce.

So of course they were calling Newsom panicking back then. They also knew the jig was about to be up.

Newsom did the right thing in signing the NIL bill. History will applaud him for it. But for him to act now as if it’s a shock that UCLA athletics would knife the UC system and its Pac-12 brethren in the back to gain potentially $70-plus million in yearly revenues and wipe out more than $100 million in debts is disingenuous and intellectually insulting to taxpayers and voters.

If Newsom wants to have a more nuanced conversation, he should know that the future of NIL and where athlete pay is headed played a significant role in why USCand UCLA knew they had to leave the floundering Pac-12 for the Big Ten, which is in the process of negotiating a media rights package reported to go well over $1 billion with the addition of the Los Angeles schools.

Here in California, there is already a petition sitting with the National Labor Relations Board that is asking for USC and UCLA athletes in the revenue-producing sports to be classified as employees — a notion that has been approved of by NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo. We can assume that USC‘s and UCLA’s move to the Big Ten, which will ask athletes to make frequent cross-country trips to compete while balancing their studies, is only going to bolster the argument they are being treated differently than normal students for the university’s financial benefit.

It could take months, or years, or a decade to get there, but once college football and men’s basketball players are employees, they will collectively bargain for a share of revenues, which will put a major dent in athletic department budgets that depend on the windfall from those sports to fund their nonrevenue teams.

USC and UCLA leaders — the same ones who were trying to persuade Newsom to not sign the NIL bill — were forward thinking enough to see that they had no choice but to thrust their hands into the Midwestern money jar if they wanted to keep Trojans football fans and Bruins basketball fans who expect national championship contention happy long term.

Gonzaga Stuns UCLA With Three-Pointer Buzzer Beater For Final Four Win

At halftime Saturday night, UCLA coach Mick Cronin challenged his team to keep it close for 10 more minutes and that they should then be able to crank up the pressure on unbeaten Gonzaga.

The flawless combination created a masterpiece of a college basketball game. It just didn’t lead to a win for the upstart Bruins.

After UCLA star Johnny Juzang’s basket with 3.3 seconds to go in overtime tied things up at 90, Jalen Suggs answered with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send the unbeaten Bulldogs into their second national championship game and the Bruins home to think about how close they came to adding another memorable chapter to the school’s rich history.

“When Johnny got the putback, I didn’t have a timeout left so I was running at my guys to get their attention to trap the ball and they got there late,” Bruins coach Mick Cronin said. “It’s not their fault because we trained them to get back because Gonzaga is so fast. If you look at the film I was trying to get them to come up so he (Suggs) couldn’t get into that shot. Still, it was a bank shot from half court.”

UCLA (22-10) played this one a bit different than they had through their incredible tourney run that started in the First Four. The Bruins often traded baskets with Gonzaga (31-0), one of the nation’s most prolific scoring teams, and didn’t allow the Zags to go on one of their trademark runs.

The Bruins also made sure to keep things slow, deliberate and tense.

It was almost enough.

Juzang finished with 29 points to lead the Bruins, trying to become the first No. 11 seed to reach the championship game. Afterward, stunned UCLA players gathered around as the officials looked at a replay review to make sure the shot was off in time. It was.

“We went out fighting,” Juzang said. “We went out, there’s no better way, there’s no regrets. Everybody fought to the last play and the last shot is the last shot.”

UCLA can take solace in doing something no other team did this season by forcing the high-scoring Zags into overtime. It just couldn’t close out Gonzaga to continue an incredible postseason run that included overtime wins over Michigan State and Alabama, runaways against BYU and Abilene Christian and holding off off top-seeded Michigan to join VCU as the only teams to advance from the First Four to the Final Four.

The Bruins were fighting for school pride, too.

Only seven Division I teams and four schools have been undefeated national champs. Only UCLA has done it more than once, celebrating perfect seasons in 1963-64, 1966-67, 1971-72 and 1972-73. The last team to accomplish the feat was the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers.

Since then, two undefeated teams had reached a Final Four in Indianapolis and lost — UNLV to Duke in 1991, Kentucky to Wisconsin in 2015. Gonzaga is the third and the Zags, too, were in a dogfight.

“Everybody is going to ask what I just told my team, so I’ll just tell you: I told them they have to let the last shot go,” Cronin said. “As much as they want to be beaten down and gutted and miserable, they have to let it go because they’re winners. As a coach all you can ask of your players is to give everything they’ve got.”

The Bruins certainly did their part.

Each time it looked like Gonzaga might get away, they fought right back — methodically erasing a 64-57 deficit midway through the second half. And it looked like they might win in regulation until Juzang was called for a charge with less than 1 second to go.

In overtime, Gonzaga jumped out to a quick 87-83 lead but when they couldn’t put it away, the Bruins capitalized. Cody Riley hit a 15-footer. The Zags answered with a 3-pointer from Andrew Nembhard to make it 90-85 with 1:15 to go and yet the Bruins knotted things at 90 — only to see their effort fall short when Suggs’ magical shot set up the Monday night matchup college basketball fans have waited all season to watch — Gonzaga vs. Baylor.

“Kudos to them, they’re a very good team,” Juzang said. “But we’re UCLA and the guys on this team, there’s no one I’d rather go to battle with. And we expect to win. We are who we are and every game we went out and left it out there and let the best man win.”

Stanford beats UCLA 35-17

Pasadena — Having beaten UCLA on Saturday night, Stanford has to get ready to play (trumpets, please) UCLA. With the Rose Bowl at stake, the Pac-12 championship game at Stanford Stadium at 5 p.m. Friday could be called the Deja Vu Bowl. The No. 11 Cardinal would be delighted if it goes something like their 35-17 slapping of the No. 15 Bruins in the regular-season finale. It was wrapped up with two touchdowns in a pulsating 13-second span in the third quarter. Coach David Shaw isn’t expecting another one-sided victory in the rematch even though it’s on the Cardinal’s home field. “It’s going to be 10 times harder than this game was,” he said. “We’re going to get their best shot.” Stanford (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) needed to win to wrap up the North Division title because Oregon (11-1, 8-1) had crushed Oregon State 48-24 earlier in the day. Had the Ducks lost, the Cardinal could have backed into the championship game, although they needed to win to get the home-field advantage Friday. In fact, they made it a point of not knowing how the Civil War game turned out. Call it blissful ignorance; they just didn’t want to lose their edge. And they sure maintained it. Stepfan Taylor rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns, and the defense had seven sacks and, for the most part, kept stellar quarterback Brett Hundley at bay. The Stanford players don’t think complacency will be an obstacle this week. “We have a mature enough team to understand the situation, that it’s a quick turnaround,” Taylor said. “We need to get our bodies right, get back on the film and be ready for next week.” Taylor’s 49-yard run for a touchdown and his 40-yard gallop to set up another will give UCLA something to study.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/collegesports/article/Stanford-beats-UCLA-35-17-4064202.php#ixzz2DG1icWVS