ARLINGTON, TX – New Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark is learning about NCAA issues in real time and during a time of dramatic change and uncertainty.
While Monday is Yormark’s first day working full-time out of the Big 12 office, leaving Jay-Z’s Roc Nation behind, the former NBA Brooklyn Nets CEO has been regularly embroiled in conference matters. since landing his first job in college athletics.
He was named the new leader of the Big 12 on June 29. A day later, conference realignment became a pressing issue again when Southern California and UCLA announced they would be leaving the Pac-12 in 2024 to join the Big Ten.
Beyond that, Yormark needs to familiarize themselves with athlete name, image and likeness compensation, the transfer portal, FBS conferences likely to split from the NCAA with their own governance structure for the football and the future of college football playoffs.
“One of his best qualities is that he doesn’t pretend to know what he doesn’t know… He asks a lot of questions and listens,” Baylor sporting director Mack Rhoades said of Yormark. “He hasn’t been in the industry, so he has to absorb all of that, which is, under normal circumstances, difficult. But then add the second part of this conference realignment.
When asked during his introduction to the Big 12 football media days in mid-July if there had been any active talks with any Pac-12 schools, Yormark said his league was “open for business” and exploring all options for the future — but gave no specific details.
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff expressed his frustration on Friday, saying he’s spent the last month “trying to defend himself against the grenades thrown from all corners of the Big 12 trying to destabilize our remaining conference.” He also said his league intends to retain its current members and welcome new additions.
The Big 12 is going through another membership transition, and its media rights deal with ESPN and Fox Sports expires after the 2024-25 college year. While Oklahoma and Texas are expected to leave for the Southeastern Conference no later than the 2025 season, four new schools will join the Big 12 next summer.
Yormark brings an outside perspective to what has been a resilient conference, as well as experience in building brands.
Before joining Roc Nation in 2019, where he was COO of the business side of the business, Yormark spent nearly 15 years with the Nets, overseeing the club’s move from New Jersey and the construction of Barclays Center. He previously worked for NASCAR, where he oversaw a $750 million deal with Nextel Communications for the naming rights to the circuit’s top racing series.
Yormark said he promised the Big 12 board that he would ensure the league was “bold and humble, aggressive and thoughtful, innovative and creative” in growing its brand and business – and become a bit more contemporary.
“One thing is crystal clear. There is no higher priority than best positioning the Big 12 for their upcoming media rights negotiations,” Yormark said. “Everything we do must build momentum for these negotiations, as well as build brand and corporate value for the Big 12.”
When the only Big 12 national football champions leave, the league will only have half of its original 12 members. Nebraska left for the Big Ten and Colorado went to the Pac-12 in 2011. Texas A&M and Missouri joined the SEC the following season.
The Big 12 added TCU and West Virginia in 2012, the same year Bob Bowlsby became commissioner. The 70-year-old decided earlier this year that he was ready to step down from the role.
Weeks after the Sooners and Longhorns received invites from the SEC last summer, the Big 12 approved memberships at independent BYU and American Athletic Conference football schools in Cincinnati, Houston and Central Florida.
Yormark plans to visit all 14 campuses in the coming months, including the four schools joining next summer, as well as departing Oklahoma and Texas.
“He’s the perfect guy for us right now,” TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati said. “He’s going to be aggressive, he’s going to be bold. He’s not going to apologize for that. … We just have to stand behind him and let him do his thing and keep putting us in the best possible positions.
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