Yormark touts realigned Big 12 as ‘more relevant now than ever before’

Losing his conference’s two biggest brands hasn’t done much to diminish Brett Yormark’s conviction in the strength of the Big 12.

The opening speaker of Big 12 Football Media Days in Las Vegas on Tuesday, the third-year commissioner proclaimed that the Big 12, now with 16 teams, is as strong as ever.

“This is our first media day as a 16-team league,” Yormark said on stage inside Allegiant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders. “There has never been a better time than right now to be part of the Big 12.” 

The league lost top brands Oklahoma and Texas, also its only previous national champions, to the SEC this offseason, but Yormark believes the addition of the Four Corners schools — Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah — more than makes up the difference.

“We are truly a national conference in 10 states and four time zones,” he said. “All eyes are now on the Big 12 for all the right reasons. I think it’s safe to say we’re more relevant now than ever before.”

Yormark poached the four newcomers from the dying Pac-12 conference, which will operate as a two-team league with just Washington State and Oregon State in 2024, in order to compete with the Big 10, which added USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington, and the SEC, which added the Sooners and Longhorns.

“We added the Four Corners and solidified ourselves as one of the top three conferences in America,” Yormark said. “I’m incredibly excited about what they bring to our league.”

Yormark touted the newcomers’ success in revenue sports — football and basketball — as big positives for the Big 12.

“The Four Corners was the ‘A’ scenario for us when we thought about realignment,” Yormark said. “Big brands, great markets, engaged fanbases and both academic excellence and athletic excellence. We got deeper and better in football, we got deeper and better in basketball and we got deeper and better in Olympic sports, so it’s been a win for this conference.”

In addition to the four schools added last year — BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston — the Big 12 has now added eight teams in just under 24 months with Yormark as commissioner. There are as many teams in their first or second year in the conference (eight) as there are original members.

Yormark said the Big 12’s sponsorship business grew 79% last year and ticket sales grew 23% across the league. The Big 12 announced last month that the 14 schools in the 2023-24 academic year shared a record $70 million of revenue distribution.

To reflect the change in membership, and to appeal to the five western programs now in the league — the four newcomers and BYU — Yormark expressed a desire to move more of the conference’s top events further west, in the same vein as moving the football media days to Vegas this year.

“This is indicative of our appetite to move a little west with some of our tentpole events,” Yormark said. “Being in Vegas is critically important to us, even before our realignment. We will continue to explore opportunities to take some of our tentpole events, our championship events more to the West Coast, if the opportunity presents itself and if it makes sense.”

Yormark did clarify that the Big 12 football championship and baseball tournament will remain in Dallas and the men’s and women’s basketball tournament will stay in Kansas City for the time being.

Half of the league’s 16 head football coaches also held press conferences Tuesday. The remaining eight coaches will speak on Wednesday. Colorado head coach Deion Sanders will kick off the press conferences at 1 p.m. and WVU head coach Neal Brown is scheduled to speak at 1:40 p.m. The Big 12 Football Media Days are being broadcast on ESPN+.