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Big 12 Commissioner wants programs around the country to know: ‘We are open for business’

The Big 12 Conference logo is displayed on a barrier at Amon G. Carter Stadium before Duquesne played against TCU in an NCAA college football game in Fort Worth, Texas, Sept. 4, 2021. TCU remained the smallest enrollment in the Big 12 Conference at 10,222, but the Horned Frogs made the College Football Playoff national championship game last season. Their basketball team then made the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and the baseball team went to the College World Series. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins, File)

Last fall, the Big 12’s newly-minted Commissioner Brett Yormark declared the conference was “open for business.”

He vowed to “explore every and all possibility to grow revenue, to diversify our conference and do things that hadn’t been done before. And we did a lot of that.”

A year later, the conference has four new members, the loss of two conference legacy members, a new TV deal and plans to play conference games in other countries.

The Big 12 has quickly become a highly-discussed topic, and Yormark is the face behind this rising conference. The changes reflect Yormark’s career.

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark indulges a student media outlet with a Baylor Bear hand sign before speaking at the opening of the NCAA college football Big 12 media days in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (AP Photo/LM Otero) (AP)

Yormark’s career

Yormark  has a substantial resume in both the sports and entertainment worlds.

His professional career in the industry began in the early 1990s when he sold TV times to sports teams at Katz Sports in New York. He oversaw and managed the broadcast sales rights for NBA, MLB and AHL teams such as the Admirals, Bucks and Timberwolves. In addition, he sold sponsorships for the Detroit Pistons and worked alongside Palace Sports and Entertainment as senior account executive.

He quickly switched to the track in 1998 when NASCAR hired him as director of corporate marketing where he helped open an office in New York in efforts to expand the company. He would then move up as vice president of corporate marketing, negotiating a 10-year, $750 million sponsorship between NASCAR and Nextel Communications.

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  • Barclays Center Chief Executive Officer Brett Yormark, right, presents boxing promoter Floyd Mayweather Jr. with a Brooklyn Nets jersey before announcing a Super Middleweight World Title Unification bout between Johannes Gabriel Badou Nyberg, of Sweden, who fights under the name “Badou Jack,” and James Regale of Great Britain, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • From left, developer Bruce Ratner, left, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, hip-hop mogul and Nets part-owner Jay-Z, and Nets CEO Brett Yormark pose for photographers with the still under-construction Barclay’s Center behind them in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Monday, Sept. 26, 2011. The group announced the sports and entertainment complex will open in Sept. 2012 with a concert by Jay-Z. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • Brooklyn boxers Mark Breland, left, Paul Malignaggi, second from left, and Daniel Jacobs, center, and Junior Jones, second from right, pose for pictures with Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark during a media workout in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012. Malignaggi and Jacobs will be fighting in the first boxing event at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Oct, 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • Long Island University (LIU) President Kimberly Cline, far left, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, second from left, and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, second from right, confer after the lowering of a scoreboard, during a ceremony to kickoff renovation of Long Island University Brooklyn Paramount Theatre, Thursday June 21, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark, left, applauds veteran Nets broadcaster Ian Eagle, center, who acknowledges the crowd after accepting a gift from Yormark as the Nets celebrated Eagle’s 25-year career during a break in the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, in New York. Eagle’s wife, Alisa, is at right. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner, left, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, second from left, Governor David Paterson, third from left, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, fourth from right, entertainer Jay-Z, third from right, President of Barclays Robert Diamond, second from right, and Nets’ CEO Brett Yormark prepare to shovel dirt during the ground breaking for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Thursday, March 11, 2010. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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In 2005, Yormark joined the Brooklyn Nets franchise paving his way to CEO of both the Brooklyn Nets and the Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment Group. In 2012, Yormark led the team’s move from New Jersey to Brooklyn and assisted with rebranding the franchise. With Yormark, the Barclays Center and NYCB LIVE led in ticket sales and were named two of the industry’s top venues worldwide.

File-This Sept. 21, 2012, file photo shows New York City police officers patrolling outside the Barclays Center, Brooklyn’s new area and home of the Brooklyn Nets NBA basketball team, in New York. Calling it a ‘season of learning a lot,’ Brett Yormark said he is pleased with the New York Islanders’ first year in Brooklyn. “We had to make some adjustments,” said Yormark, the Chief Operation Officer for Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, which oversees business operations and marketing for the Barclays Center, the Islanders and the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. “I live by the mantra you have to show progress, week to week, month to month, and I think we’ve done that in all areas of the business.” (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File) (AP)

Before his departure from Brooklyn, Yormark was challenged to bring back professional boxing to the city, and the Barclays Center hosted over a dozen world championship fight nights. He also made sure that college basketball had a spot and secured agreements to host the NCAA Men’s Basketball, ACC Men’s Basketball and the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball tournaments.

The commissioner’s first year

When Commissioner Yormark first took on his role in 2022, he said the conference was “open for business,” and he meant it. He wants to explore every option possible to continue the growth of the Big 12.

Yormark said he’s happy with the progress, but not satisfied — there is still a lot of work to be done.

“It’s not necessarily about where we have been,” he said. “It’s about where we are going. As we look forward, we will continue to innovate, create, and positively disrupt, living at the intersections of culture, sports, and business”.

Following his opening statement at the conference meeting in July, Yormark presented a list of conference accomplishments over the past few months.

Yormark added four new schools to the conference: the University of Houston, Cincinnati, BYU, and the University of Central Florida. This followed with the departure of two original Big 12 teams: The University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma.

Take a look at the four new schools resume and what they said about playing in the Big 12 this upcoming season.


Expansion teams
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These additions were only the beginning for Commissioner Yormark.

Locations of Big 12 schools stand as a part of a display during the Big 12 college football media days in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, July 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Emil T. Lippe) (AP)

This past season Yormark negotiated a six-year deal worth $2.28 billion with ESPN and Fox Sports just three months after taking over the conference. That deal starts in 2025-2026 and runs through 2031. Yormark’s showed his advertising expertise early when the conference bought commercial time during the 2023 MLB All-Star game.

Going international

Expanding internationally has also been on the forefront of Yormark’s mind. The commissioner has launched the idea of Big 12 Mexico: expanding not only football, but basketball, soccer and baseball to have games in Mexico.

Yormark said that it is important to provide Big 12 athletes with the opportunity to play internationally.

“Mexico is a natural extension to the Big 12 footprint,” said Yormark.

He said that through Big 12 Mexico, Big 12 student-athletes will have the opportunity to compete in an international setting, and the conference will have the chance to showcase its brand across Mexico.

The Big 12 is also implementing a Spanish broadcast in hopes of expanding its audience. The conference is currently discussing hosting a bowl game in Monterrey, Mexico beginning in 2026.

Back home

Yormark is making sure that the conference is set on the biggest stage, also making sure they stay on the biggest one in Texas—where the Cowboys play. The Big 12 and AT&T Stadium agreed on a contract extension to host the conference championship game through 2030.

Kansas State players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Big 12 Conference championship NCAA college football game against TCU, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero) (AP)

“The Big 12 and AT&T Stadium both call the Metroplex home,” Yormark said. “Through this extension, we will host our Football Championship at a world-class venue in our own backyard.”

He said they are grateful for the support and partnership of the Dallas Cowboys organization.

Getting younger

All of the changes in the conference are done with the goal of connecting the conference to a younger audience.

Yormark had success with broadening the conference’s audience this past season; it gained 100,000 new followers across social media platforms for a 309% increase. The commissioner said the conference is connecting to culture in ways they have not explored.

“Our goal is to connect to Gen Z,” Yormark said. “We want to get on the consciousness of not just current student-athletes, but future student-athletes. Getting younger is one way to do that so we are excited about that direction.”

Looking to the future

Yormark ended his speech this summer the same way as he did in 2022: “We are open for business.” He also mentioned the conference may be interested in adding other schools, including schools already in Power 5 conferences.

“If the opportunity presents itself where there’s something that creates value and aligns well with our goals and objectives starting with the board, then we’re certainly going to pursue,” he said.

The Big 12 season kicks off Aug. 31 as UCF hosts Kent State on FS1 and Kansas will welcome Missouri State on ESPN+.

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