'Open for business': How the Big 12's new boss can speed up OU's exit
Meet Brett Yormark, the new commissioner for the Big 12 and perhaps the key to Oklahoma and Texas getting out of the league sooner than expected.
It’s as important of a time as ever for the Big 12 Conference.
The league, once headlined by traditional powers Oklahoma and Texas, seemed all but dead after the Red River rivals jumped ship for the Southeastern Conference a year ago.
The Big 12 picked itself up off the ground, inviting Group of 5 heavyweights Brigham Young, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston to join the league last fall. The four accepted their bids, a move that has aged wonderfully after the Pac-12 lost two of its top moneymakers in Southern Cal and UCLA to the Big Ten this summer and likely would have loved to bring in a brand like BYU.
Now the pressure is on Brett Yormark, the Big 12’s new commissioner and former chief executive officer at Roc Nation Unified, to ensure the conference cashes in on its advantageous, yet unexpected position.
The Big 12 introduced Yormark during Day 1 of its media days in Arlington, Texas, on Wednesday and, of course, Yormark was asked to address several conference realignment topics.
Most notably for folks around in Norman, what’s the relationship going to be like for Yormark, Oklahoma and Texas over the next one or two years before the divorce is finalized?
“First of all, the folks from Texas, both the president and AD, as well as at Oklahoma, they've been very gracious to me,” he told reporters. “They were a part of the process in me getting hired, so I appreciate the support that I received.
“I'm sure there's going to be a moment in time where we're going to sit down and discuss the future. Obviously, I don't start until August 1, and I look forward to doing that. That's really all I can say at this point in time.”
While Yormark didn’t deliver a long message on how the conference continues to coexist with their crimson and burnt orange colleagues, his early (and most importantly … friendly) dealings with the schools ought to give OU and Texas fans some hope.
Hope that the Sooners and Longhorns won’t be stuck in the league longer than either party prefers.
If the league is willing to play ball, perhaps OU and Texas’ introduction to the SEC will come sooner than 2025, which for legal reasons, is the earliest the schools could join their new conference without facing any form of penalty. Just maybe under new leadership and with the four new members confirmed to join the Big 12 in 2023, Yormark’s vision will include OU and Texas catching an early checkout.
Because really, who wants to set up a temporary league model that will have to be ditched after one or two seasons?
Any potential early exit for OU and Texas will likely come with a huge financial incentive for the Big 12, which stands to lose plenty of money in the long run from the hit its inventory will soon endure.
Having OU and Texas around longer ensures the Big 12 maximizes its revenue over the next few years. Yormark’s focus, however, is on the Big 12’s future and not chaining OU and Texas down for three more football seasons.
So, why wait?
“In any situation like this, I always look for a win-win scenario,” Yormark said. “That being said, it's important that whatever happens is in the best interest of this conference.”
It’s unclear what the best thing for the Big 12 is right now. Yormark referred to his experience working with and expanding the brands of NASCAR and the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, which likely appealed to a league that has a perception issue.
How Yormark transforms the league, at a time when college football is as chaotic as ever, could range from anything from an out-of-the-box television rights dealto poaching more schools.
The Pac-12 Conference figures to be the most vulnerable after losing USC and UCLA. Yormark convincing, let’s say, Oregon and Washington to join the Big 12 would be a massive win for a league that looked destined to disband and could stabilize it for at least another decade. Adding Arizona and Arizona State could be viable options as well.
Yormark plans to make the Big 12 more of a national brand, which should happen naturally with the number of time zones its current and future members occupy. He also wants to bring youth and energy to the conference that, along with the Pac-12 and ACC, sits in the shadows of the SEC and Big Ten.
Between the Big 12’s new members and announcing a league-record $42.6 million sent to each member school in distributable revenue, times are better for the league than they were a year ago but it can’t rest on its laurels with more conference realignment possibly on the way as TV deals expire and individual schools decide what’s best for them.
“One thing is for sure, there is no doubt the Big 12 is open for business,” Yormark said. “We will leave no stone unturned to drive value for the conference. Just as I pledged to the board, we will be bold and humble, aggressive and thoughtful, and innovative and creative, all in an effort to position the conference in a way that not only grows the Big 12 brand and business but makes us a bit more contemporary.”
For OU, it has to pray that plan includes cutting ties with its past and sprinting toward its future.
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