Brett Yormark, the Big 12 commissioner, has been described by Sports Illustrated as “the college sports shark that never stops swimming.” Having lost Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, he’s not playing around. He has no qualms about patrolling the waters of college football, looking for schools to steal away from other conferences.

“We have a plan for expansion,” Yormark announced at Big 12 football media days earlier this month. “I’m not going to really address it today. Hopefully we can execute it sooner than later.”

And so he has.

On Thursday, Colorado, following a unanimous vote of approval from its Board of Regents, announced it will re-join the Big 12 Conference effective for the 2024-25 season.

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The school was a founding member of the Big 12, which formed in 1996, but the Buffaloes left for the Pac-12 in 2011, and now are returning just over a decade later.

This news comes as four new schools — BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston — begin competing in the Big 12 this fall.

There might be more to follow. Action Network’s Brett McMurphy reported Thursday that the Big 12 is considering the addition of one to three more members by 2024, with the hope it can lure more Pac-12 schools away. Among the other top targets are Utah, Arizona and Arizona State, as well as Oregon and Washington.

Suddenly, the Big 12, which was reeling with the loss of Texas and Oklahoma even as the league was putting on a brave face in public, is back in business.

And the Pac 12 is on life support.

Like the Big 12, the Pac 12 is losing its flagship schools (USC and UCLA, to the Big Ten). Unlike the Big 12, the Pac 12 has not responded. It is the only Power Five conference that has been unable to secure a long-term media rights deal, and the loss of another school will make it even more difficult.

Other Pac 12 schools will surely be tempted to leave the league in search for more money and prestige. The Pac-12’s current media, which expires in a year, ranks last among Power 5 schools with $37.7 million in annual payouts to each member school, compared to $58.8 million for the SEC, $49.9M for the SEC, $44 million for the Big 12 and $41 million for the ACC. Meanwhile, all but the Pac 12 have secured rich, long-term deals that will begin when their current deals expire: the SEC $3 billion, 10 years; the ACC, $1 billion deal, 12 years; the Big Ten $7 billion, 7 years; the Big 12, $2.3 billion, 6 years.

The Big 12 could be the big winner. Before becoming commissioner, Yormark was a salesman, working for everyone from Roc Nation to the Detroit Pistons to NASCAR. He sold TV time and sponsorships before moving into marketing.

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Linked by history, BYU and Colorado could become quite the pair in the Big 12

The Big 12 might be his biggest selling challenge yet, but so far he is pulling it off. When he took the commissioners job a year ago, he faced a crisis with the loss of the league’s flagship schools. Texas and Oklahoma are to the Big 12 what Paul and John were to the Beatles. Despite that considerable challenge, Yormark closed the media deal just three months after he was hired. Now he’s wrestled Colorado away from the Pac 12.

No wonder this guy was so chipper and confident at the Big 12 media day a couple of weeks ago. When someone asked him whether the league could maintain a high level of recruiting without the Longhorns and Sooners, he .

“I’m not sure they have carried recruiting,” Yormark said. “They haven’t been in the championship game for a couple years now, and all the other schools have done an incredible job. I love Texas and Oklahoma … but our schools are doing an incredible job in recruitment. Look at TCU’s run last year, and 80% of our teams made a bowl game last year. Everyone is in a great place.”

TCU advanced to the national championship game last season, but that does not change things much. Ari Wasserman of The Athletic did some research, and this is what he discovered: In the last 10 recruiting cycles, Texas and Oklahoma have signed a combined 23 five-star prospects. The other Big 12 schools signed three. Wasserman continued: Texas and Oklahoma signed a combined 264 four-star recruits during that time while the remainder of the Big 12 (including the four new schools) signed 183.

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More numbers: Oklahoma ranks fourth in all-time NFL draft picks with 414; Texas is 14th with 357. Oklahoma is tied with Ohio State, Notre Dame and USC for the most Heisman winners, with seven. Texas has had two. The rest of the league has won a combined total of four (one each for BYU, Houston, TCU and Oklahoma State). Oklahoma and Texas ranked sixth and seventh for most consensus All-Americans. As a result of all of the above, Oklahoma has won seven national championships, Texas four. The rest of the league has won a combined total of two — BYU in 1984 and TCU in 1938. The Big 12 has earned five berths in the 10-year history of the College Football Playoff, though Oklahoma claimed four of them.

The impact of the Texas-Oklahoma departure doesn’t end with player talent and recruitment. In 2019, Forbes listed the most valuable college football programs. Texas was No. 2, Oklahoma No. 6. The rankings are based on average revenues over a three-year period. Texas checked in at $147 million, Oklahoma $129 million.

During the 2022 season, Go Banking Rates studied the valuations of the top college football programs and listed Oklahoma No. 1 (worth $101 million) and Texas No. 2 ($97 million). No other Big 12 school made the top 25.

There are are reasons for optimism after Texas and Oklahoma depart in 2024. Cincinnati has produced a 53-10 combined record the last five seasons and finished eighth and fourth, respectively, in the 2020 and 2021 national polls. Oklahoma State was seventh in the final 2021 poll. Since 2008, TCU has finished in the top eight of the final poll seven times, including No. 2 last season. Baylor was seventh in the final poll in both 2021 and 2019. BYU was 11th in 2020 and 19th in 2021 as an independent, and the school’s membership in the Big 12 should be a boon for the football program.

The Big 12 has seen a lot of change over the years and survived various iterations dating back to its days as the Big 8. Now they’re back to 13 members (starting next season) and counting. Any way you spin it, the league faces uncharted territory.

Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark speaks at the opening of Big 12 football media days in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, July 12, 2023. | LM Otero, Associated Press