KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said Wednesday he is focused on expansion and “exploring every little possibility” to add new members to his conference.
Athleticism reported on March 3 that the conference had recently been in contact with Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah as the Pac-12 continued to negotiate a new media rights agreement.
In a press conference ahead of the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament opener at T-Mobile Center, Yormark gave no indication of his progress in courting those schools, but reiterated that he would pursue any additions that would make his league more valuable.
“I love the makeup and composition of this conference going forward,” Yormark said. “I love the four new schools coming in July and the other eight. I think we’re in a great place. But if there’s a chance to improve, it’s up to me as commissioner to to explore those possibilities, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.
The Big 12 also spoke with Gonzaga about joining as a non-football member. Sources involved in the process said Athleticism that Yormark wants clarification on the Pac-12 situation before proceeding with this addition.
“I love Gonzaga,” Yormark said. “Obviously a great program. My current focus is to see what is happening in our industry. There are a lot of moving parts. I continue to have conversations with Gonzaga. But I think, while I’m prioritizing what our next stage of expansion might be, there are other things right now that I’m focusing on.
Since being hired as commissioner last July and publicly declaring the Big 12 to be “open for business,” Yormark has consistently said his priorities for expansion are finding schools that would expand the league’s geographic footprint and that westward expansion would be ideal for executing its vision. of the Big 12 becoming a “true 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 fit first and foremost,” Yormark said. “We have a like-minded board and institutions, so we don’t want to jeopardize that. Whoever comes in, ultimately there has to be a cultural fit. »
Yormark made no mention of the Pac-12 during his 18-minute speech, but touted 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 associated with those two networks from 2025. Pac-12 negotiations with ESPN, Apple and Amazon are still ongoing.
“We live in such an unpredictable world, and it was important to have some clarity and stabilize the conference,” Yormark said. “I thought the best way to do that was to get a deal with ESPN and Fox. Luckily they were ready to go early and we found common ground and we’re glad we were able to do that. Because if you think of where we are today, after seven months of work, we’re in a very different place than we were three or four months ago. You think of those media companies and the layoffs and the some of their challenges, and to the fact that we were able to cement a six-year extension with two of the biggest media partners in the industry who truly elevate and glorify our conference in every way possible.”
(Photo: William Purnell/USA Today)