Commish: Big 12 will be ‘deepest conference in America’

Big 12 football will already look different this fall, but conference commissioner Brett Yormark suggested even more changes could be coming to the growing league over the next few years.

Speaking on Tuesday at the Big 12’s media days event in Las Vegas, Yormark outlined his view of the conference’s future, which could include private equity investment, playing games on days other than Saturday and re-naming the league.

“From a conference perspective, we are exploring all options. Two years later, I guess you could stay, we’re still open for business.”

The Big 12 will already be well-stocked entering the 2024 football season.

The league will grow to 16 schools on Aug. 2 when it absorbs Pac-12 Conference defectors Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah.

Though the league lost perhaps its two most prominent programs — Texas and Oklahoma — to the Southeastern Conference on July 1, next month’s additions will give the Big 12 eight new schools over a 13-month span. BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston all joined the conference last July.

Despite losing a key rivalry between the Longhorns and Sooners, Yormark is optimistic about the Big 12’s growth. He wants to propel the league’s football prestige above that of the SEC and the Big Ten, the two conferences often viewed as superior to the Big 12.

“Think about where we were just 24 months ago and think about where we are today,” Yormark said. “So I will not stop until we’re the No. 1 conference in America. That’s my ambition.”

Achieving that status could involve multiple innovations geared toward boosting the league’s revenue. The Big 12 distributed about $44 million to each of its schools in 2023, while Big Ten and SEC schools received $60 million and $51 million from their conferences, respectively.

Yormark discussed allowing private companies to purchase a stake in the league, with its members sharing the money. The commissioner said that partnering with a capital resource makes “a ton of sense,” and he is considering possible solutions.

“A structure and model of what that looks like is going to be critically important so that we’re not compromising the long-term future of the conference,” Yormark said.

Yormark also suggested scheduling Big 12 football games in a way that avoids clumping them together with other big-time matchups on the same day. Doing so could increase revenue for Fox and ESPN, the league’s TV partners.

“There’s … a lot of competition (on Saturday), so the question is, are there new TV windows we can explore?” Yormark said.

Selling the conference’s naming rights is another possibility, with Yormark explaining that the Big 12’s brand stretches beyond the number of members in the league.

“Can we find the right strategic and financial partner that is going to support this conference in all the right ways?” Yormark said. “Nothing is imminent.”

For now, the biggest step the Big 12 can take toward conference superiority is to win the league’s first national championship in the College Football Playoff era.

Utah, Kansas State and Oklahoma State are some of the preseason favorites to compete for spots in the new playoff format, which has expanded from four to 12 teams.

A handful of those 12 spots will likely be claimed by the Big Ten and SEC, but Yormark believes the Big 12 will also make plenty of noise.

“If we take care of business, we’re going to be just fine. I’m a firm believer in that,” Yormark said. “We’re more relevant now than we’ve ever been. We’re a national conference. We’ve got 16 great brands. We’re going to be the deepest football conference in America and we’ll be well represented in the CFP.”