On Monday, University of Utah president Taylor Randall and athletic director Mark Harlan had their first press conference after the decision to move to the Big 12 last Friday.

In a wide-ranging 25-minute press conference, the two Utah leaders touched on the impact the Big 12 move will have at the university, both in the athletic department and academically.

Here are the highlights:

Taylor Randall on Big 12 membership, leaving the Pac-12

“I want to begin by thanking the Big 12 Conference, their presidents and commissioner Brett Yormark for giving us the opportunity to compete with our athletic programs at a very, very high level. We are looking forward to that partnership. It’s an innovative conference that is looking toward the future. I also want to say that I’m very, very grateful to all of my Pac-12 colleagues. We spent the last year working diligently together to try to keep this conference together, but as I mentioned in my written release last weekend, ultimately the dynamics of collegiate sports and media markets bring us to where we are here today. I want to say that we’ve spent 12 great years in that conference and I believe that the relationships will continue.”

Mark Harlan on Big 12 membership

“As we move forward, I too am so excited about the opportunity in the Big 12. I know many of their athletic directors, some of ’em, one of ’em, used to be my intern. ... A lot of great people, incredible cities. You go on the road and all the sports there and it’s sold out. So Ute Nation, get ready, because everywhere we got to get our tickets early to many of those events because it’s remarkable.”

Randall on the Pac-12 TV deal

We expended every energy to try to figure out how this deal could move forward. It was an innovative construct. It certainly on its upside had the promise to do something very different to the way we view television. I think everybody in the room caught that view. At the end of the day, each university was plugging in the numbers and kind of making their own decision. And obviously the outcome is where we are today.”

He expanded more on the potential Apple TV deal later in the press conference.

“... It was fun, right? It was energizing. It was exciting. Again, the way I described it is all of us had to make a decision about that and get to a certain comfort level, and we just couldn’t get the whole group there.”

Randall on if the Pac-12 broke up because Fox and ESPN found the schools more valuable apart than together

“I’m just going to quote Harlan, ‘Give me a break.’ Anyway, look, media is part of it, but so is building an incredible league that wants to stay together. When you think about this from a university president’s perspective, you’re looking broader than just the dollars and cents. You got to keep an athletic program healthy, so it’s got to meet some minimum viability for sure, but on the margin, you’re not going to choose for a million or two here, you’re thinking about the long-term view of the university and where you need to position it, and I’m sure that’s what the other presidents were doing as well.”

Harlan on winning right away in the Big 12

We want to get in there and win and win right away. We have no reason to believe that we can’t.”

Randall on what Big 12 membership means for the university academically

“These are sensational schools, right? I know many of the presidents personally. I think that’s why this makes this a comfortable move for me personally. I know their standards. What I like about this, the group of universities in this league, is they all are striving to get better, and you can see them bringing resources to do that. I wouldn’t bet against the Big 12. That’s what makes us so excited to be there.”

Harlan on the Big 12 TV deal

“I will say that the thing I’m most excited about with this television dynamic that we go into is it’s obviously, it’s with two of the major providers in Fox and ESPN who’ve been obviously partners that we know well. It also will have streaming to it, and I think it’s very important for folks to know that although primary linear is certainly where we’re headed, there will be streaming because that’s the way it’s going. And I think we’ve seen many comments from very huge people in the industry even hint that they could come sooner than we think. But this does position us to have a lot of visibility going forward. I think that’s what I’m most excited about.”

Harlan on Utah’s time in the Pac-12

“The Pac-12 experience for the University of Utah, I would like to even think it’s been more profound than it has been for many other members. It changed this university. I saw it from afar working at other Pac-12 schools. I saw the rise of Utah academically and certainly athletically. It’s been a special, special ride and we are so excited about this last lap ahead. So many championships we have to defend in the league this year and certainly with where we sit today trying to create history and have the third straight football championship.”

Harlan on potential increased travel in the Big 12

“Well, I’d caution a little bit on increased travel. Everyone can look at UCF and West Virginia and say, well, that’s further away. ... There’s a lot of groupings there that are closer than what we currently experience. And so as we go through and work with a conference and figure out how they’re going to do that, we have to let the dust settle.

University of Utah officially joins the Big 12 Conference
What Utah president Taylor Randall, BYU AD Tom Holmoe and others said about the Utes’ move to the Big 12
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“So I just want to say that before we say increased travel, we have to look at the totality of all of that, but what I can say unequivocally is the student-athletes at University of Utah, we’re not going to step one little inch back on what we provide them, how we take care of them, their health and wellness, and all of that remains our singular focus. And so whatever happens next, they’ll be taken care of in a great way.”

Randall on if there were any conversations with the Big Ten Conference

“I want to keep lots of conversations just relatively private, but we explored a lot of options.”

Harlan on the conversation with student-athletes about the move to Big 12

“That process is underway. Look forward to seeing a lot of them this week. We have a lot of meetings. We have been communicating with them. I was around the football program on Saturday. ... It’s fair to say some of the young men from Texas were jumping around a little bit, you can imagine. But we’ll have more feedback on that as we go through the week. But I think for them, I just put myself in their shoes. I mean, I think they follow and read what you guys write and hear, and I think having clarity and certainty is something that I’m sure they’re very enthusiastic about.”

Randall on renewing the rivalry with BYU

“Now, I’m a fan, a lifelong fan of this university and I know we’re going to get questions about the renewed rivalry with Brigham Young University. For me, it’s always been fun. We’re looking forward to that. We’ve appreciated the way we’ve worked together over the years when we’ve not been in the same conference. We’re certainly looking forward to the years where we will be.”

University of Utah President Taylor Randall speaks at a press conference regarding Utah’s move to the Big 12 Conference at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Monday, Aug. 7, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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