It's too volatile a time for incoming Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark to say so little
The Big 12 should be trying to get to 16 members to insure its survival. But on Wednesday, it's incoming leader made it sound like nothing's pressing.
It’s a mouthful:
Big 12 Conference Football Media Days.
You will hear them called the “unofficial start of the football season” or that the Big 12 football season’s “officially begun” because they’ve arrived.
Mostly they’re a bunch of hullabaloo.
Not that they’re not important.
They began Wednesday and though not yet formally on the job — that day is Aug. 1 — after outgoing commissioner Bob Bowlsby offered his state of the conference address, Brett Yormark was introduced as the conference’s next commissioner before taking a bunch of questions.
Who’s Brett Yormark?
In 2005, he quit being NASCAR’s Vice President of corporate sponsorships to become CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, the Nets’ arena.
In 2019, he joined Roc Nation as its president of business operations and co-CEO, and in January of this year, he added Roc Nation’s COO title to his portfolio.
If you don’t know, founded in 2008 by Jay-Z, Roc Nation is many things: talent agency, sports agency, management company, record label, PR shop, publishing house and philanthropy organization.
Taking questions from the media throng, Yormark managed to come off polished and not particularly informed at the same time.
“During August and September, I will conduct a listening tour and visit all 14 campuses,” he said. “I’ll visit stakeholders to gain a historical point of view and to ask what does success look like.
“Following my first 60 to 90 days, I will report back to the board with my observations and how I see our path forward.”
It sounds like a good idea, but what it doesn’t sound like is anything urgent. Indeed, though good questions were asked, Yormark’s words denoted no urgency at all, even as college sports, driven by football, are so clearly on fire.
The Big 12 has helped itself under Bowlsby’s direction.
Soon after Oklahoma and Texas rocked everybody’s world with their decisions to join the SEC, Bowlsby put together agreements that will have BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston in the Big 12 in time for the 2023 football season. But given USC and UCLA’s decision to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten, it’s no time to relax.
Saying so little, Yormark disappointed.
• Is the Big 12 actively courting Pac-12 institutions?
Yormark: As I said in my opening comments, we are exploring all options, and we’re open for business.
• Could the Big 12 become a super conference, like the SEC or Big Ten?
Yormark: As you get to know me, I don’t really pay much attention to anything else but us. I think there’s incredible upside with the Big 12. It’s one of the reasons, again, I’m here.
• Should Oklahoma and Texas remain in the conference to the end of their contractual obligation, or would you like them out sooner?
Yormark: I don’t start until Aug. 1, I have a lot to learn. But in any situation like this, I always look for a win-win scenario. That being said, it’s important that whatever happens is in the best interest of this conference.
It’s tempting to say he artfully said nothing, yet it’s tempting not to because he so clearly said nothing.
If that’s the way Yormark likes it, saying nothing, it will be a continuing bad look.
Should he ever want favors from the people covering his conference, he should strongly consider a second press conference after his listening tour in which he actually says something.
Thankfully, in a breakout session with a small group of reporters, one of them the Austin American Statesman’s Brian Davis, who reported it, Yormark offered a sliver of evidence he’s more up on things than he let on during his formal presser.
“‘I’m not against’ having negotiations that allow Texas/OU to leave for the SEC early,” Davis tweeted. “‘But it’s got to be in the best interest of the conference, obviously.’”
What he ought to do is boot them out as fast as he can.
Mike Gundy’s sour grapes over the Sooners’ and Longhorns’ departures notwithstanding, keeping OU and Texas along for the ride serves nobody but OU and Texas.
If they can be gotten rid of in time for the 2023 season, and without further expansion, the Big 12 would finally live up to its name for the first time in a long, long time, which is something. And, should it expand further, the last thing it should want is a conference in excess of 16 schools, which it might briefly have should BYU’s, UCF’s, Cincinnati’s and Houston’s arrivals overlap with OU’s and Texas’ long goodbyes.
It would also hand the Big 12, under Yormark’s leadership, the chance to ascend into a stable 16-member league on the same timeline as the Big 10, when USC and UCLA arrive in 2024 or sooner, and the SEC, when OU and Texas arrive in 2025 or sooner.
It’s a desirable opportunity given the race to remain a viable conference appears to have morphed into a race to become a 16-member conference.
For a first-year commissioner, who’s never been employed by a university or a conference, it’s a lot.
So much, the next press conference in which Yormark works so hard to say so little ought to be never.
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