Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark says conference has ‘a plan’ for expansion as spring meetings conclude
Yormark says the 4 schools that will join the Big 12 on July 1, including BYU, are ‘ready’ to compete right away
The four schools that will join the Big 12 Conference on July 1, including BYU, “are ready to be a part of the Big 12,” commissioner Brett Yormark said Friday as the league’s spring business meetings concluded in West Virginia.
In an early afternoon news conference with Texas Tech president Lawrence Schovanec, Yormark said he’s observed not only BYU, but Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston over the course of the last nine months and is satisfied with the progress they have made.
“They have been very much a part of what we have been doing over the last nine or 10 months since I have been here, They have been fully engaged.” — New Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark on BYU, other newcomers.
“They have had a two-year runway, effectively, to get ready,” Yormark said, noting that the schools were invited on Sept. 10, 2021. “And they have built infrastructure, they have invested in resources, and I am really pleased where they are right now. We can always get better — even the existing institutions. … We embraced them for all the right reasons.
“They have been part of our meetings throughout the year, both coaches meetings and administrative meetings. They have ramped up in all the right areas and I am just looking forward to having them join us and be part of this new Big 12,” Yormark continued.
Yormark said the conference has “great marketing plans to celebrate the new Big 12, the four new schools,” and a lot of that feting will take place at the Big 12 football media days July 11-12 in Arlington, Texas.
“They have been very much a part of what we have been doing over the last nine or 10 months since I have been here,” Yormark said. “They have been fully engaged.”
New BYU president C. Shane Reese, athletic director Tom Holmoe, senior woman administrator Liz Darger and Colby Wright of the finance department represented BYU at the meetings.
Earlier this year, football coach Kalani Sitake and basketball coaches Mark Pope and Amber Whiting attended meetings in Arizona and Texas, respectively.
Sitake said in April that he has met Yormark several times and been impressed with the vision the first-year commissioner has for the league, particularly in football.
Skovanec seconded that notion on Friday, saying: “When we hired Brett Yormark we hit the jackpot.”
Perhaps Yormark’s major announcement Friday was that the conference will be distributing a record $440 million to its membership, “which we are very proud of, and that will continue to grow in the future.”
That works out to $44 million per school, including Texas and Oklahoma, which are joining the SEC after the 2023-24 school year, Yormark confirmed.
Citing sources familiar with the situation, CBS Sports reported in January that each of the four new members “are set to receive $18 million to $19 million annually, approximately 40% of the original annual distribution. BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF will each receive a full share of media rights revenue when the Big 12 begins its new deals in the fall of 2025.”
What about future expansion?
Yormark acknowledged that future expansion was discussed, but said he did not want to get into specifics. It’s no secret that Pac-12 so-called “four corners schools” — Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State — have been on the Big 12’s wish list, and recently officials at Colorado have not ruled out the Buffaloes’ interest in possibly returning to the Big 12.
“We have a plan (regarding expansion),” Yormark said. “As I have said all along, we have an appetite to be a national conference in our makeup from coast to coast. And we do believe in the upside of basketball moving forward as a collective group.
“That being said, we love our current composition, love the four new schools that are coming in next month,” he continued. “However, if the opportunity presents itself to create value, we will pursue it. I am not going to address expansion beyond that today, but it is a focus of ours, and when we are ready to speak with greater specificity, we will do so.”
Texas Tech’s Schovanec, the Big 12 board chairman, expounded on what presidents and chancellors are looking for in expansion candidates.
They “value the shared culture we have in the conference,” Schovanec said. “That matters to us. Our institutions share the same high academic standards, and we compete at a very high level athletically. So naturally those sort of criteria do enter into our considerations.”
However, the presidents realize times are changing, which is why they hired the innovative and forward-thinking Yormark.
“We are taking a very open attitude, weighing all the different issues that are presented, and when the time is right and the situation is right, we will make a decision,” Schovanec said.
Is Big 12 targeting Gonzaga basketball?
Those who have followed the Big 12’s course lately know that basketball is a huge priority to the conference, which bills itself as the No. 1 men’s basketball conference in the country. Does that mean the league would consider adding perennial basketball power Gonzaga, even though the Zags don’t have football?
“I mean, listen, we are going to consider all options,” Yormark said when he was asked if school’s must have a full complement of sports to be considered. He did not mention Gonzaga specifically. Another school with strong basketball programs, UConn, has also been discussed by the Big 12, ESPN’s Heather Dinich reported Friday.
“We do see the upside in basketball moving forward, for all the right reasons,” Yormark said. “We think it is undervalued and if there is a chance to double down as the No. 1 basketball conference in America (it will be considered). But football is the driver, and we all know that. We are exploring all options and all considerations at this point in time.”
Expounding on Schovanec’s comments about expansion criteria, Yormark said that “strategic” moves are a big part of it, too.
“We have some guiding principles when we think about expansion,” Yormark said. “… And at the top is the academic alignment, and the leadership, and the cultural fit, and the geography, and the athletic performance, and the upside that an institution has as they would potentially join the Big 12. And we think about all those things as a collective group, and we discussed all those guiding principles this week.”
What else was discussed?
Yormark said these topics were also discussed at the three-day conference:
• Next year’s business plan and financial plan.
• A data rights deal, which will be announced in the coming weeks, “and which we are very excited about.”
• An international strategy, which is focused on Mexico. Further details are coming, Yormark promised.
• “We also discussed extending our existing championship sites with our current venue partners in Dallas for football, in Arlington for baseball, in Kansas City for basketball and in Oklahoma City for softball. It is very important for us on a go-forward basis to do that,” Yormark said.
• The commissioner said the Big 12 will have a “brand refresh” next year, but its logo and name will not change. Rather, he said it could include “different colors and applications.”