During Big 12 introduction, new commissioner Brett Yormark illustrates why he was the right hire at the right time

Incoming Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark, right, shares a laugh with outgoing Commissioner Bob Bowlsby at a news conference opening the NCAA college football Big 12 media days in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, July 13, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

It remains to be seen what happens with the conference’s roster and whether more universities join or even leave the Big 12 in the years to come.

But regardless of what the lineup looks like now or in the future, the conference seems to be in terrific shape for a move into the new era of college athletics with new commissioner Brett Yormark in charge.

Yormark met with Big 12 media members for the first time on Wednesday and he painted a clear picture of who he is, what he believes in and where he sees the Big 12 going.

His unofficial tag line of building the Big 12’s “brand and business” was a terrific indicator of exactly where his head is at as he jumps into this new endeavor.

With expansion a possibility and survival a must, building a stronger and better-than-ever Big 12 will be critical for all of the conference’s members, current and future. But it won’t happen without a businesslike approach, and Yormark is well prepared for both layers of leading this conference.

Look no further than his work with the Brooklyn Nets for proof of that.

Yormark, who comes to Big 12 country after a successful stint as an executive on the commercial side of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment agency, mentioned the Nets during his introduction on Wednesday.

While the Big 12 is not in the same dire straits that the franchise formerly stuck in mediocrity in New Jersey once was, the evolution of the Nets, from uninspiring, overlooked NBA franchise to global brand at the heart of a revitalization in Brooklyn, New York, is the same kind of path that Yormark believes is possible for the Big 12.

Yormark joined the Nets in 2005 and led the move to Brooklyn in 2012. Like that rebranding effort, which was energized by Jay-Z and the construction of Barclays Center, Yormark believes the Big 12 can become more of a national brand while also getting “a little younger, hipper, cooler.”

Dan Beebe thought he was doing that more than a decade ago. But nobody was buying it.

Bob Bowlsby’s time on the job brought stability, respectability and professionalism back to the Big 12, even if it was of the quiet and cautious type.

Now it’s time for the next step and a modern-day approach.

Yormark said he admired everything Bowlsby did for the conference and added that he felt he was being handed the baton at a perfect time. But don’t be surprised for a second if the new Big 12 looks more like something run by Jay-Z than Jay Leno.

“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,” Yormark said Wednesday.

All of that is ideal for a conference that is at a significant crossroads, both internally and within the larger landscape of college athletics.

The hiring of Yormark in and of itself came from some outside-the-box thinking and was deserving of praise immediately. But now that we’ve had a chance to hear from him, it’s even more clear that hiring Yormark was the exact right thing at the exact right time.

For starters, he has significant experience in the space that the conference — and all of college athletics — soon will be operating in on a more full-time basis.

Like it or not, entertainment value, technological advances and, yes, money, will all soon be every bit as important as final scores, recruiting wins and coaching contracts. And we’re probably there already.

It’s not just Yormark’s resume that makes him the perfect fit, though.

There’s also his demeanor, approach and competitiveness. He seems like a man who is up for any and all challenges and, more importantly, one who will put the best interest of the Big 12 above everything else, regardless of how it looks or what others are saying. The ability to do that without issue comes from his confidence and track record.

He already has extensive plans to visit Big 12 campuses and study data points to plan the conference’s next moves. But he also made it clear that the conference, and therefore he, were “open for business” in the meantime — in all areas.

What exactly that means and how that winds up benefiting the Big 12 remains to be seen. But those are exactly the types of people and personalities you need and want in the room when you’re negotiating mega-million-dollar broadcasting deals, which the Big 12 will be doing in the next two or three years.

Yormark will enter into those negotiations with a clear goal and a plan to attack rather than settle and with fresh ideas and a willingness to take risks.

That’s something the Big 12 hasn’t seen much of during the past couple of decades, and it’s something the conference is going to need as it moves forward toward what it hopes will be a bright and lucrative future.


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