Big 12 coaches sound off on realignment – The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Big 12’s new commissioner already has his eyes on the prize.
During his introductory press conference Wednesday at Big 12 Football Media Days, incoming commissioner Brett Yormark underscored the importance of the league’s upcoming negotiations for new media rights.
In the modern age of college athletics, those media rights are the lifeblood for conferences and their member schools. They help leagues cover expenses, and they bolster annual payouts to institutions.
“One thing is crystal clear: There is no higher priority than to best position the Big 12 for its upcoming multimedia rights negotiations,” Yormark said. “Everything we do must create momentum for these negotiations, as well as building the value of the Big 12 brand and business.”
Just last month, the Big 12 sent record payouts to its members, equally distributing a $426 million pot to WVU and its nine counterparts. Those payouts marked a 20 percent year-over-year increase following the school year most impacted by the pandemic, and appear to have maintained the Big 12’s position as the third-most lucrative conference behind the Big Ten and SEC.
But the SEC is preparing to absorb Oklahoma and Texas in 2025, previously the Big 12’s flagship programs. The Big Ten is also planning to add USC and UCLA in 2024, further altering the landscape of college athletics. Some have speculated that annual payouts will soon soar in these conferences due to this realignment.
The SEC’s new media deal with ESPN goes into effect in 2024. CBS Sports reported in May that the Big Ten could begin a new rights deal as early as 2023. Meanwhile, the Big 12’s grant-of-rights expires in 2025. At that point, the Big 12 will be a 12-team league, having added BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston and subtracting Texas and Oklahoma.
When it comes to these impending negotiations, Yormark said he’s “bullish on the conference.”
“[A]s I said earlier, everything we do from this point forward will lead towards that negotiation period, how we build our brand, how we build our business, conference realignment,” Yormark said. “All that will probably play a role in whatever dialogue we have.”
The commissioner added that the Big 12 could look a lot different between now and the time when these negotiations take place. He said the conference is “considering all options,” and that league officials have “received a lot of phone calls” amid a new wave of expansion. It’s possible that an additional round of expansion in the Big 12 could improve its position in upcoming negotiations.
But knowing that there’s a big pot at the center of the poker table, Yormark isn’t going to tip his hand before he goes all in.
“There aren’t any specifics that I can speak to now as far as how we’re going to position ourselves differently because there’s a long time between now and when we’ll commence negotiation,” he said, “but I’m looking forward to that moment.”