Big 12’s new boss learning the ropes
New Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark is learning the NCAA’s issues in real time and during a period of sweeping change and uncertainty.
While Monday is Yormark’s first day working full-time out of the Big 12 office, leaving behind Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, the ex-CEO of the NBA’s Nets has been steadily involved in conference matters since landing his first job in college athletics. He was named the Big 12’s new leader on June 29. A day later, conference realignment became a pressing issue again when Southern California and UCLA said they would be leaving the Pac-12 in 2024 to join the Big Ten.
Beyond that, Yormark has to get familiar with name, image and likeness compensation for athletes, the transfer portal, FBS conferences potentially splitting from the NCAA with their own governance structure for football, and the future of the College Football Playoff.
“One of his best qualities is he doesn’t pretend to know what he doesn’t know … He asks a lot of questions, and listens,” Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades said of Yormark. “He hasn’t been in the industry, so he’s got to absorb all of that, which is, just under normal circumstances, difficult. But then throw on top of that conference realignment part two.”
When asked during his introduction at Big 12 football media days in mid-July if there were 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.
The Big 12 is going through another transition in membership, and its media rights deal with ESPN and Fox Sports expires after the 2024-25 academic year. While Oklahoma and Texas are set 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 a background in building brands.
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