ARLINGTON, Texas — In his first public appearance, incoming Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark said the conference is “exploring all options” when it comes to further expansion, including the possibility of adding Pac-12 schools.
“We’re open for business,” Yormark said Wednesday when specifically asked about considering schools from the Pac-12. “And optionality is good. And we’re vetting through all of them. I think it’s fair to say I’ve received a lot of phone calls, a lot of interest. We’re exploring those levels of interest. Nothing is imminent.”
Yormark, who will officially replace outgoing Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby on Aug. 1,, said any timeline concerning possible expansion is “fluid.”
“No one knows,” Yormark said. “But we are engaged in conversations daily with all the key stakeholders. And at the right time when something makes sense, we’ll do it — or not. … Sometimes the best deals are the ones that you don’t make, because we don’t want to just do a deal for sake of the deal. That’s not my mindset, and obviously whatever we do needs to be additive and not diluted. But we’re being proactive. We’re not on our heels. We’re engaged in meaningful conversation, and we’ll see where it takes us.”
With the recent news of USC and UCLA leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten on Aug. 2, 2024, conference realignment remains at the forefront of discussions for university presidents, chancellors, athletic directors and conference commissioners. Earlier this month, in response to the shocking news about two of their flagship programs leaving, the Pac-12 board of directors authorized the 10 schools that will remain in the league to explore expansion options and begin negotiations for its next media rights agreement.
“The 10 university presidents and chancellors remain committed to a shared mission of academic and athletic excellence on behalf of our student-athletes,” the Pac-12 said in a statement on July 1.
Yormark takes over as Big 12 commissioner at one of the most tumultuous times in the history of college athletics. He said the priority is best positioning the league for its upcoming media rights negotiation, as the current deal runs through the 2024-25 season.
“We will leave no stone unturned to drive value for the conference,” said Yormark, who sat next to Bowlsby on stage as he addressed reporters at Big 12 media days at AT&T Stadium.
Yormark added that “there is not a definitive plan right now” but said the conference is “a very unified group.” The Big 12 will add BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF on July 1, 2023.
Bowlsby said the Big 12 distributed a record $42.6 million per institution in revenue.
“I feel very confident that our conference is in the best position it has ever been in before,” Yormark said. “Bob is leaving us in a great place.”
Bowlsby, who typically begins the media days with a “state of the conference” address, half-joked about his similar comments a year ago.
“I said at the time that I thought our board was as aligned as I had seen them during my 10 years with the Big 12,” Bowlsby said. “It was, I think, eight days later that Texas and OU announced they were going to the SEC, so you can take my assessment of calm waters for what they’re worth.”
The SEC has said Texas and Oklahoma will join the league on July 1, 2025, but there has been speculation that they could join earlier. Yormark said he is looking for a “win-win scenario” for everyone involved.
“That being said, it’s important that whatever happens is in the best interest of this conference,” he said, “but I look forward to the right time to have those conversations.”