Kansas City, Mo. — Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said Wednesday he is focusing on expanding and “exploring every little opportunity” to add new members to his conference.
The athletic reported on March 3 that the conference has recently engaged with Arizona, the state of Arizona, Colorado and Utah as the Pac-12 continues to negotiate a new media rights deal.
At a press conference ahead of the opening game of the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament at T-Mobile Center, Yormark gave no hints about his progress in courting those schools, but reiterated that he will pursue any addition that makes his league more valuable .
“I love the composition and composition of this upcoming conference,” Yormark said. “I love the four new schools coming in July and the remaining eight. I think we’re in a great place. But if there is an opportunity to improve, it is for me as Commissioner to explore those possibilities. And that is exactly what I do.”
The Big 12 has also spoken to Gonzaga about possibly joining as a non-football member. That’s what sources involved in the process have told The athletic that Yormark wants clarity on the Pac-12’s situation before proceeding with that addition.
“I like Gonzaga,” Yormark said. “Of course a great program. My focus right now is to see what’s happening in our industry. There are many moving parts. I keep having conversations with Gonzaga. But I think while I’m prioritizing what our next step in expansion might be, there are other things I’m focused on right now.
Since he was hired as commissioner last July and publicly stated that the Big 12 was “open for business,” Yormark has consistently said that his expansion priorities are finding schools that will expand the league’s geographic footprint and that expansion into the west would be ideal to implement his vision. of the Big 12 becoming a “truly national conference”.
The conference will officially add new members BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF in July and temporarily become a 14-team league until Oklahoma and Texas join the SEC in 2024.
“It has to be a good cultural match first and foremost,” Yormark said. “We have a like-minded council and like-minded institutions, so we don’t want to compromise on that. Whoever comes in, ultimately there has to be a cultural match.
Yormark made no mention of the Pac-12 during his 18-minute speech, but did praise his conference’s new TV deal, an extension with current partners ESPN and Fox through 2030-31. He noted that the deal will make the Big 12 the only Power 5 league to partner with those two networks from 2025. Pac-12 negotiations with ESPN, Apple and Amazon are ongoing.
“We live in such an unpredictable world and it was important to have some clarity and stabilize the conference,” said Yormark. “I thought the best way to do that was to do a deal with ESPN and Fox. Luckily they were willing to go early and we found common ground and we’re just really glad we were able to do it. Because if you think about where we are now, seven months into our work, we’re in a very different place than we were three, four months ago. You think about these media companies and the layoffs and some of their challenges, and the fact that we were able to secure a six-year extension with two of the biggest media partners in the industry who take our conference to the next level in every way and glorify.”
(Photo: William Purnell/USA Today)