Big 12 Conference commissioner Brett Yormark understood how important it was to address the media rights package before he even took the job.
That is why the newly appointed commissioner made his primary focus on expanding things as soon as he was appointed to the post on August 1.
Yourmark said, “I felt that we live in such an unpredictable world and it was important to have some clarity and to stabilize the convention.” “And the best way to do that was to make a deal with ESPN and Fox.”
And Yormark was able to get to the negotiating table early and secure a six-year extension with the two existing partners, which would begin in 2025 under the league’s new 12-team alignment at $31.7 million per team.
It is a move at the time that might have seemed a bit rash, but considering the layoffs with media companies and the challenges facing the industry, it is looking more favorable.
Cincinnati, BYU, Houston and Central Florida will join the league in July and then Texas and Oklahoma will depart in 2024 to allow the league its own configuration in the new media rights deal.
The fact that the Big 12 is currently the only Power Five league to partner with both ESPN and Fox provides the opportunity for both marketing and unprecedented promotion.
“The fact that we were able to solidify a six-year expansion with two of the biggest media partners in the business really elevates and glamorizes our conference in every possible way,” Yourmark said. “I look back on it and I’m thrilled.”
Yourmark acknowledged that finding a way to cut that deal with ESPN and Fox was a driver in the decision-making process and incredibly important to the league. The conference certainly could have waited things out and attempted to push a more streaming-focused deal, but where the league is today, Yormark believes they need to be the biggest platform to promote member institutions. was needed.
“I think we have brands that are right on the cutting edge and we want to make them household brands. And there’s no one better than ESPN and Fox to do that for us,” Yourmark said.
There will certainly be a streaming element with the Big 12 Now on ESPN+ and Yourmark has had several discussions with ESPN regarding the upgrade, the rebrand and the digital side of the overall production. And the commissioner admits he’s excited about it and how it will develop.
On the subject of expansion, Yormark has consistently maintained that all possible additions to the Big 12 Conference should be additive and they are focused on the topic and exploring all possibilities. Yormark is comfortable with the current structure of the league, but it’s up to him to figure it out.
As far as expansion candidates go, they must be a good cultural fit and geography will be important, plus Yormark views the Big 12 as a truly national conference.
“Performance matters, both academically and on the field and on the court. We think about many things when we think about detail. Not just one metric but a couple,” Yourmark said.
Yourmark also believes that the league’s basketball component, which was up nine percent last season, could be further monetized in the future. That won’t happen until the next television rights deal is in place, so going forward the focus will be about creating value and positioning ourselves on that front.
And while ESPN has done an excellent job helping glamorize the league, the new television deal will allow Fox to be more of a player in the college basketball side of things as well.
“It gives us another shot in the arm as it relates to more exposure, more marketing,” he said.
As part of that potential expansion aspect, Gonzaga is one team that has been mentioned and Yourmark confirmed he has spoken with the school, though the focus is on other areas for now.
“I like Gonzaga. Obviously a great program. My focus right now is to see what happens throughout our industry. There are a lot of moving parts. My talks with Gonzaga are ongoing,” he said.