Big 12 Media Days: New commissioner Yormark weighs in on OU, Texas' looming exits

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Jul. 13—ARLINGTON, Tex. — Recently hired Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark got his first chance to take questions from the media on Wednesday at Big 12 Media Days.

Sitting in between his predecessor, former commissioner Bob Bowlsby, and Baylor president Linda Livingstone, Yormark spoke about his vision for the future of the conference. One big question: How long will Oklahoma and Texas be a part of that future?

Both programs voted last July to depart the Big 12 for the SEC by no later than 2025. The exact timeline of their eventual departure is unclear, as both teams and the conference could negotiate for an earlier exit.

Yormark didn't give a specific answer, but indicated willingness to have those discussions.

"I'm sure there's going to be a moment in time where we're going to sit down and discuss the future — obviously I don't start until August 1 — and I look forward to doing that," Yormark said. "That's really all I can say at this point in time.

"From my perspective... I have a lot to learn. But in any situation like this, I always look for a win-win scenario. That being said, it's important that whatever happens is in the best interest of this conference. But I look forward at the right time to have those conversations."

Yormark was clear that he feels no animosity towards both schools.

"The folks from Texas, both the president and [athletic director], as well as at Oklahoma, they've been very gracious to me," Yormark said. "They were a part of the process in me getting hired, so I appreciate the support that I received."

Yormark will take over a Big 12 conference that's in a period of radical change and uncertainty. In addition to Oklahoma and Texas' eventual exit, the conference will add four additional teams — BYU, Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston — in 2023.

Recent reports indicate the Big 12 has also expressed interest in adding as many as six teams from the Pac 12 as the conference reels from the recent announcement that UCLA and USC will join the Big Ten in 2024.

Yormark didn't confirm that report but made it clear where the conference stands.

"One thing is for sure — there is no doubt the Big 12 is open for business," Yormark said. "We will leave no stone unturned to drive value for the conference.

"I think it's fair to say I've received a lot of phone calls, a lot of interest. People understand the direction of the Big 12, and we're exploring those levels of interest. Nothing is imminent, but we're working hard to make sure that we position the Big 12 in the best possible way on a go-forward basis."

The incoming commissioner has other focuses outside of conference realignment, too. Specifically, Yormark's focus is on growing the Big 12 "brand."

"... I think there's opportunities, as I learn a little bit more about the brand and our fan base, to become a little bit more national, to position our brand a little younger, hipper, cooler... [to] connect a youth culture, diversify some of the things we're doing," Yormark said. "And I think we have a great opportunity to do that."

Yormark's background in sports marketing provides a unique perspective for the leadership in the conference. Before joining Roc Nation, Yormark worked for the Brooklyn Nets for 14 years, starting in the ticket office before eventually working his way up to CEO.

But this is Yormark's first venture in college athletics, which he said has always been his goal.

"What excites me most about joining the Big 12 is the transformative moment in front of all of us today," Yormark said. "We have an opportunity to grow and build the Big 12 brand and business, be aspirational, define our point of difference, all while never losing our commitment to always compete and develop our student-athletes at the highest levels. Moments like these do not happen often, and we must seize them and make the most of them. It will require incredible work and collaboration."

After Yormark officially starts his new position in August, he plans to visit "all 14 campuses" within the first 60-90 days to meet with university personnel before reporting back to the Big 12 Board of Directors to discuss the conference's next steps.

"Just as I pledged to the board, we will be bold and humble, aggressive and thoughtful, and innovative and creative, all in an effort to position the conference in a way that not only grows the Big 12 brand and business but makes us a bit more contemporary."

Tarik Masri is a sports reporter for The Transcript covering OU athletics and area sports. You can reach him by emailing tarik@normantranscript.com