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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Sports

Brett Yormark sheds light on Big 12’s future during UH visit


New Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark met with the media on Monday morning as part of his campus visit to UH. | James Schillinger/The Cougar

New Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark met with the media on Monday morning as part of his campus visit to UH. | James Schillinger/The Cougar

Brett Yormark, who took over as the new Big 12 commissioner on Aug. 1, visited the UH campus on Monday as part of what he described as his “listening and learning tour” to the conference’s current and future institutions.

Here are some of the key takeaways from Yormark’s visit to UH:

Further Big 12 expansion?

With the additions of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC and UCLA and USC to the Big Ten, the two conferences which are widely considered the most dominant is college athletics continue to grow stronger.

This begs the question of if the Big 12 needs to further expand, even with UH, BYU, Cincinnati and UCF set to join the conference on July 1, 2023.

While not opposed to expansion, Yormark solidified his position that the Big 12 is set up for success going forward because of the conference’s current and soon-to-be members.

“Do we need to expand? No,” Yormark said. “On the go forward, we will have 12 great member institutions that give us a great footprint geographically. Great brands. You see the depth of this conference already right now two weeks into the football season.”

This does not mean that Yormark will not consider adding current Pac-12 schools like Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon, Utah or Washington, some of the many names that have been tossed out as possible additions to the Big 12. But, the timing and fit have to be right if the conference chooses to further expand.

“Do I have a goal of nationalizing this conference? Absolutely. Does that mean that we should look at expanding our geographic footprint in order to do that? Why not,” Yormark said. “But we need to make sure that, one, that timing is right, two, again whatever we do is additive and is not dilutive. My job is to explore every and all options and that’s what I’m doing and will continue to do.”

Contemporizing the Big 12 brand

Coming from a background in the entertainment industry, specifically with music, Yormark has what might be considered nontraditional plans to revamp the Big 12’s brand.

“First and foremost for me, it’s about how do we contemporize the brand,” Yormark said. “How do we story tell in ways we’ve never done not just at the conference level but also at the member institution level? … How do we use music as a part of our storytelling? How do we celebritize maybe some of our championship games? We are going to do a lot of different things and all of it will be about contemporizing what we do at the conference level.”

While Yormark did not provide specifics on what this new Big 12 brand will look like under his helm, it is clear that the goal is to tell stories in a completely new way that college athletics has never seen.

Music, Yormark’s forte, will be a big part of it.

“Do I want to lean on entertainment? 100 percent,” Yormark said. “Is music going to be part of the DNA of this conference going forward? Absolutely.”

Staying strong post-Texas and Oklahoma

Whether it be 2025 or earlier, the exact timeline of when Texas and Oklahoma depart for the SEC is the least of Yormark’s worries. Rather, he is focused on making sure the current and future Big 12 institutions remain aligned.

“I’ve got to do what’s is in the best interest of our member institutions and this conference,” Yormark said when asked about Texas and Oklahoma’s impending departure. “Whatever decisions we make moving forward will be based on just that”

Yormark, who is at the tail end of his campus visits, has been extremely encouraged about the conference’s future based on what he’s seen so far.

“We’re really excited about the future,” Yormark said. “I often tell people I don’t think there’s been a better time to be a part of the Big 12 than right now. We are aligned as a conference (with) all the member institutions and that’s been reaffirmed in my (campus) visits.”

While losing its two big dogs in Texas and Oklahoma is certainly a hit to the Big 12, that is a thing of the past that Yormark is not focused on.

Instead, it’s about paving a way for the Big 12 to be successful as college athletics continues to go through an unprecedented time of conference realignment

“For us and for me, it’s about being the best version of ourselves,” Yormark said. “That’s what I’m really focused on. How can we best position the Big 12 for the future and do all the right things.”

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