Day one of Big 12 Media Days in the books and as we follow along on Day 2, the true story from Day 1 was the introduction of new Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark. Sure, Mike Gundy stole headlines by declaring Bedlam dead after a couple of seasons, but the future of the leadership with the Big 12 was a question that was answered on Wednesday.
So, what stood out? What really caught our ear as Yormark laid out his vision.
1 – There is a lot of learning still to be done. If there is one thing that Yormark made very clear, he will allow himself to be a sounding board. He will visit all 14 campuses, including OU and Texas and even the schools that have yet to join the Big 12. Yormark does not have any college experience on his resume, but he understands the power of a brand. Knowing what is important to each school and its athletic department will allow Yormark to super serve the conference and its entire membership.
2 – The Big 12 is open for business. To me, that was not just aimed at Washington and Oregon but a much broader audience. We could potentially see schools like Arizona, Arizona State, and maybe even a handful of ACC schools be candidates to move to the Big 12 if they can figure a way out of the grant of rights. I’m also interested in schools that the Big 12 has potentially passed on before, the likes of Memphis or SMU who may have a new lease on life in the college football expansion world. A new set of eyes in Yormark might allow for a whole new opportunity in the future.
3 - The commitment to doing “what’s best for the Big 12” … and what exactly will that look like to Yormark? While Yormark gave an incredible opening statement and wowed man, the introduction was heavy with passion and somewhat light on details and there is nothing wrong with that. In a football sense, he is still learning the playbook and there is a lot that is still to be determined about what truly is his plana and of course, what is in the best interest of the Big 12. Is it in the best interest of the Big 12 to hold OU and Texas to its grant of rights or let them both move on and allow your conference to create its own identity? Is it in the best interest of the Big 12 to become additive and if neither Oregon nor Washington are in play, could an Arizona and Arizona State combo add to the overall portfolio of the Big 12? Is it in the best interest of the Big 12 to be an advocate for playoff expansion? I can answer that right now, yes…absolutely. But Yormark was slow to truly endorse playoff expansion and it will be interesting over the next few weeks to see how quickly, if at all, he becomes and advocate for adding teams to the playoffs.
4 – With a lack of experience in the college ranks, one interesting nugget caught our ear… Yormark has a solid relationship with George Kliavkoff the commissioner of the Pac 12. I truly don’t think we can get to caught up in that bringing the Pac 12 and the Big 12 together, but it is at the very least a familiar face and ear for Yormark to bend. Kliavkoff has a mess on his hands with USC and UCLA bolting for the Big 10 but at the very least, Yormark has someone who can help him better understand the challenges and politics of running a conference. Also, after a year if the Pac 12 struggles to truly find the foundation, it needs to stay together long term, there will at least be a familiarity between the commissioners to always have an open line of communication if a merger is possible.
5 – The hip and happening choice. Yormark mentioned many times about the desire for the Big 12 to be more “modern”. What truly does that look like? Is it a relationship with a streaming partner instead like Amazon or Netflix that could take the conference rights to a whole new audience? Is it as simple as just upgrading the social media presence? Could it be the addition of more “reality” type shows along the lines of what UFC did with the Ultimate Fighter or even F1. The simple answer to being more “hip and happening” is you have to win. You can have an incredible social media presence and the greatest reality show on TV, but your football programs have to be at a level where basketball has been over the last few seasons. The Big 12 has won back-to-back titles in college basketball and if football is able to accomplish something similar, you won’t have to wear your hat backwards with a skateboard over your shoulder to try and look cool and happening.