The Big 12 Conference has a new TV contract and a commissioner in Brett Yormark who sees what he calls the “unity” of the new league.
The Big 12 Conference has been the most transitory of the Power 5 conferences. In the past dozen years, the league has lost Colorado to the Pac-12, Nebraska to the Big Ten, and Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC. In 2025, Texas and Oklahoma — the league’s glamour programs — will also leave for the SEC.
But, in the wake of the impending departures of the Longhorns and Sooners, a new dynamic has developed. The ‘Hateful Eight,’ the popular nickname for the remaining eight teams, and the incoming members — BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF — have forged an alliance and alignment that has impressed Yormark in his first few months on the job.
“You feel like the decision makers are unified moving forward,” Yormark said.
When the league met in June for its annual meeting, the four new members were invited to participate. Former Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told reporters that due to the fluctuating nature of the membership, there were items for the current 10 members, some for all 14 schools, others for the future schools that were observing and interacting without a vote on issues, and some for just the eight remaining schools — Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU, and West Virginia.
It’s an odd dynamic, to be sure. A conference trying to navigate current, new, and outgoing members. In October, Yormark made it clear that Texas and Oklahoma would be with the league through the current grant of media rights, which means the two teams would leave for the SEC for the 2025 football season.
Plus, news broke on Wednesday that the Big 12 and Gonzaga had met about expansion.
A league forged by a shotgun marriage and defined by dysfunction, especially in the past decade, seems to have settled into an alignment that few could have predicted last year when many thought that Texas’ and Oklahoma’s departures might destroy the conference.
Yormark’s perspective, as an outsider, is telling. He said during his interview process he could see the alignment. He said during his first in-person board meeting since Bowlsby’s retirement he sensed the same thing.
Everyone that is moving forward is on the same page.
“The alignment, the like-mindedness, the fact that we share the same mission and vision is great,” Yormark said. “And that includes, you know, the four new member institutions that are coming in July which we’re extremely excited about.”
Yormark said at Big 12 Basketball Media Days in Kansas City that he had completed his listening tour of the ‘Hateful Eight’ and the four new schools. In the coming weeks, he will visit Oklahoma and Texas for football games. He said both the Longhorns and Sooners have been good partners when it comes to league business.
But his listening tour impressed him. The former Brooklyn Nets president and NASCAR executive had little experience with college athletics when he embarked on the tour. It proved to be eye-opening for him.
“One of my key takeaways is the incredible investment that that has been made in student athletes, and positioning student athletes to be the best version of themselves,” Yormark said. “Whether it’s the mentoring, the resources that are being afforded, the investments that are being made on campus … just the passion and the commitment for college sports that has unfolded, not only during my listening and learning tour, but when I visited the schools for recent football games, it’s been incredible.”
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard