Amid rumored Pac-12 interest, Big 12 commissioner declares league 'open for business'
While rumors swirl left and right and the conference realignment carousel spins up, first-year Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark made it painfully clear Wednesday that his league is open for business.
Speaking at the opening press conference for the Big 12 Media Days at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Yormark pronounced to all in attendance that his chief goal was to strengthen the Big 12 in whatever way possible, which includes reportedly letting Texas and Oklahoma leave the league before 2025 to join the SEC and adding additional members to the incoming foursome of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and Central Florida.
“We are exploring all options and we are open for business,” Yormark told gathered media when asked about reported interest in Pac-12 schools. “Optionality is good, and we’re vetting through all of them. I think it’s fair to say I’ve received a lot of phone calls, a lot of interest. People understand the direction of the Big 12 and we’re exploring those levels of interest. Nothing is imminent, but we’re working hard to make sure we position the Big 12 in the best possible way going forward.”
"Nothing is imminent."
Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark gives latest update on the conference realignment 👀 pic.twitter.com/JE1MVyhOId
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) July 13, 2022
Yormark, when asked if the Big 12 could potentially lose members, said he felt the collection of schools was a “very unified group.” In fact, he said that alignment between administrators and the Big 12 athletic directors was “one of the things that drew me to the job.”
The former COO and co-CEO of Roc Nation Unified was officially introduced as the Big 12 commissioner on June 29, just a day before news broke that USC and UCLA were leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024.
The announcements from both L.A. programs kicked off a frenzy of speculation regarding the future of the Pac-12. Would the league fold without its tentpole programs? Would it look to add new members to the remaining 10? Would it form some kind of loose partnership with the ACC or merge with the Big 12?
Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff has been given approval by the league’s Board of Directors to explore all expansion options. In the meantime, he’s also looking to secure the league’s next media rights agreement.
Yormark is looking to do the same in the Big 12. Under the former commissioner, the Big 12 arrived at the Pac-12’s proverbial doorstep a year ago in the aftermath of the Texas/Oklahoma departures to broach a potential merger. The Pac-12 rebuked that strategy.
Could Kliavkoff look to try and reopen that discussion now that there’s a new leading man in charge of the Big 12? It doesn’t seem likely. The Big 12 has reported interest in the Arizona schools, Utah, and Colorado.
It’s already set to add four programs, so four more would bring the league to 18 members. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said at the event Wednesday he thinks the league will eventually expand and get to 16 teams, per Heartland College Sports’ Derek Duke.
Meanwhile, Colorado athletic director Rick George said Wednesday, via Buffzone’s Brian Howell, that the remaining Pac-12 members are “focused on staying aligned.” Per Howell, George said, “I think we’re stronger and we’re better when the 10 are together than we are individually and I think my peers feel the same way.”
The Pac-12 is reportedly taking the long view here, even while the Big 12 sets up shop to the south. Yormark was clear. His league is looking.