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Conference realignment ‘happened because of money,’ UCLA head basketball coach says

UCLA head basketball coach Mick Cronin told reporters the recent conference realignment moves in college athletics "happened because of money."

As the 2023 college football season rapidly approaches, the conversations around college athletics have largely focused on conference realignment due to the seismic moves made in the past several weeks. 

The Pac-12 is on the verge of collapse as eight schools will depart the conference after the 2023-24 seasons. 

Oregon and Washington will join the Big Ten while Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah will head to the Big 12. 

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The moves come roughly a year after UCLA and USC announced their intention to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. 

For UCLA head basketball coach Mick Cronin, the decisions to change conferences all came down to money. 

"The problem is, the public doesn’t understand the scope of why it’s all even happening," Cronin told reporters Thursday. "The public thinks right now that I have the 12 guys on scholarship, and they go to UCLA for free. They don’t realize the athletic department at UCLA has 25 sports and 700 kids on scholarships that they have to pay the university for those scholarships. That, right there, 99% of the people do not know that." 

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"So, why do they need all this money? Why do these schools need all this money? There’s about four athletic departments that actually make money in the entire nation because of scholarship bills and budget expenses. So, this all happened because of money. That’s just the reality. It’s not all because of football. It’s because expenses and bills have grown. That’s the reality of it. And what I would tell you is, this is not the end-all fix. It’s far from over."

While the conference realignment conversations have mostly revolved around college football, all sports are impacted by the move. 

For UCLA, the switch to the Big Ten will mean longer travel days, as all sports programs will now need to travel to the Midwest and the east coast for road games. 

Cronin said the decisions to change conferences, which has been going on since well before the moves of the past several weeks, are not made with the best interest of student-athletes in mind. 

"It’s been going on for a long, long time. None of it is in the best interest of the student-athlete, no matter what anybody says," Cronin said. "It’s in the best interest of more money to cover the bills. That’s it." 

The Bruins basketball program is preparing for its final season in the Pac-12 before competing in the Big Ten in 2024. 

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