Big 12 Basketball

Brett Yormark’s Vision For the Big 12 Conference Appears to be Arriving Early

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The Big 12 Basketball Tournament week began in Kansas City on Wednesday, and before a game was even played, commissioner Brett Yormark took to the podium as a man who knows he’s got the college sports landscape right where he wants it, and possibly ahead of schedule.

Yormark began his remarks talking extensively about the success of this league on the basketball court, saying, “As the rookie Commissioner having just experienced my first basketball season, it’s been great, nothing short of spectacular. On the men’s side, probably unprecedented when you think about the strength of this conference, the national narrative.”


And not only the national conversation, but what he saw in each Big 12 market upon becoming commissioner appeared to exceed expectations, adding, “I made my way throughout the conference, attending both men’s and women’s games that the level of fandom and passion for basketball in this conference is unrivaled. Ratings are up 9% across across the season on ESPN.”

A Great First Six Months

Yormark is a man holding pocket Aces, who has the leverage to make the next domino fall in conference realignment that sends the college sports landscape into a tizzy. He has a guaranteed TV deal into the next decade, but not too long (cough, cough, ACC), plus a football conference that just had a team reach the National Championship for the first time in the College Football Playoff era, all while the league might land eight of ten teams in the NCAA Tournament, with the talent to have a quarter (?!) of the Sweet 16.

Some of those things Yormark was able to control, most notably the TV deal, while other things such as the on-field and on-court performance are not on him (although word on the street is he has a mean jump shot). But when any company, and that’s what the Big 12 is, gets this convergence of great business dealings, outstanding performance, and a little bit of luck along the way, it can be unstoppable.

And for the first time in 15 years, it feels like that’s exactly where the Big 12 Conference finds itself.


The Best Run Since…

Go back to 2008. The Kansas Jayhawks won the NCAA Tournament in an all-time game over John Calipari’s Memphis Tigers for KU’s first National Title in 20 years. Meantime, Texas would go on to reach the football National Championship as part of the 2008 season, in a game that saw Colt McCoy get injured early, which resulted in an Alabama win, kickstarting Nick Saban’s legendary run.

At the time, the Big 12 was flying high in the two biggest sports. The universities were relatively united. However, it would all quickly unravel in the coming years as Colorado would leave for the Pac-12, Texas would launch the Longhorn Network, Nebraska would bolt for the Big Ten, and Texas A&M and Missouri would jet for the SEC.

Since then, the league did add TCU and West Virginia, while considering expansion elsewhere in the years that followed, but nothing ever transpired. Texas always lingered as the unrepentant older brother of the league, and then came July of 2021, when the explosive news broke that the Longhorns and Sooners would leave the Big 12 Conference.

The Big 12 held its own, stuck together, and made the best four, realistic additions possible in BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston. The stabilization came and then in came Brett Yormark.

And what he has done in his short time on the job is take this league from stabilization to ascension.

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