What Big 12's Brett Yormark means now when he says conference is 'open for business'

In meeting with the media following the Big 12’s spring business meetings, commissioner Brett Yormark called back to his first official press conference nearly two years ago.

“I’ve said from Day 1, we are open for business,” Yormark said Friday. “I guess you could say that we are open for business more than ever.”

In the summer of 2022, “open for business” meant pursuing conference expansion amid the realignment craze.

This time, Yormark says he’s not openly pursuing additional schools for what will be a 16-team league when the four new members — Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah — officially join on Aug. 1.

“‘Open for business’ is we explore every and all opportunity to create value for our members, for our student-athletes,” Yormark said. “It’s what we’ve been doing since I onboarded, and we’ll continue to have that mindset.”

Yormark addressed the Big 12’s position among major conferences, particularly as it relates to the Southeastern and Big Ten conferences, which currently have more substantial revenue packages for their member schools.

“Money doesn’t drive relevance,” Yormark said. “I think if you’ve taken a look at the conference over the last 21 months, we’re more relevant now than we’ve ever been. Our narrative is greater. We have a seat at the table. We’ve got two great media partners in ESPN and Fox that are doing everything they can to elevate and amplify our conference.

“For me, it starts with having brand relevance and having a voice, and I think we have that today, and we’re looking to have a bigger voice moving forward.”

Here’s a look at other topics discussed by Yormark and Baylor president Linda Livingstone, who is the Big 12 board of directors chairperson:

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Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark walks beside OSU athletic director Chad Weiberg before a Bedlam college football game between the Oklahoma State University Cowboys (OSU) and the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.
Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark walks beside OSU athletic director Chad Weiberg before a Bedlam college football game between the Oklahoma State University Cowboys (OSU) and the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.

Big 12 to distribute $470 million to schools

The Big 12 reached record revenue to distribute to its schools, dividing $470 million between the 14 universities that were in the league for the 2023-24 school year.

Though the total dollar figure is higher than ever, the distributions to the schools were down for the 10 members who remained from the previous year. Those schools will receive $39.8 million this year, down from $44 million last year.

The four schools that entered a year ago — BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston — were set to receive partial revenues, which totaled $18 million this year and will be $19 million next year.

How will Title IX impact revenue sharing?

The Big 12 was the first of the major conferences to vote in favor of settling the House v. NCAA lawsuit, which will open the door to a revenue-sharing structure in college athletics, as well as create a fund of more than $2.7 billion to pay former athletes for past damages.

The revenue-sharing plan would allow schools to pay roughly $20 million per year directly to athletes.

Among the questions that remain regarding what the revenue sharing will look like is universities’ compliance with Title IX laws.

“I think there’s still a lot of uncertainty about how we’re going to distribute that money, and what the implications of Title IX might be, and how you make some of those determinations based on potential value of teams or individuals versus some of the expectations around Title IX that are not particularly clear right now,” Livingstone said. “The next 12-14 months, as we anticipate implementation in the fall of ‘25, we’ll be trying to flesh out some of those details.

“I think there will be quite a bit of variance in exactly what people choose to do within whatever the parameters end up being that turn out to be guidance from, say, a Title IX perspective.”

Figuring out the framework and the implementation of laws will continue to be a work in progress for universities as they prepare for revenue sharing.

“Some of it will happen at the NCAA level, some of it will happen at the conference level and then within schools we’ll have flexibility in what we do,” Livingstone said. “I think at some point there will be a Title IX model.

“We just need some guidance on that, and the sooner we can get that, the better.”

Welcoming ‘Four Corners’ schools

Yormark’s bold approach to his job since the summer of 2022 was critical in the Big 12’s expansion by adding the “Four Corners” schools, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah.

Those members officially join the league Aug. 1, and Yormark has been impressed with the attitude of the new schools in aligning with the Big 12’s aggressive vision.

“The culture fit with the Four Corners schools has been really great from Day 1,” Yormark said. “We’ve spent a lot of time, I’ve been on all four campuses, met with presidents and ADs, the key stakeholders. They’ve embraced the DNA of this conference and where we’re going, and are now active participants.”

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Extra points

➤The talk of roster limits, and potentially eliminating walk-on programs, for college football teams has been a popular topic this week at SEC spring meetings, but Yormark said there is no consensus from the Big 12 on that idea

“That’s a work in progress,” he said. “We did have some discussion with our ADs, led by (Big 12 chief football and competition officer) Scott Draper. It’s certainly something that is important, and the work now begins. But nothing definitive.”

➤Big 12 Mexico, the league’s initiative to take football and basketball games outside the United States, has been put on hold for this year, but Yormark expects it to be revitalized in 2025.

“Given everything we’re doing right now, that’s why we postponed it,” Yormark said, referencing revenue sharing and welcoming the new schools. “There’s a lot for us to do in the next 12 months.

“I’m a big supporter of going global and going into a market that makes so much sense for us. But had to pause on my conviction for the market and really prioritize what matters most right now. We’ve partnered with a great promoter there, and we will look to do that in ‘25 and beyond.”

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Big 12's Brett Yormark says conference not looking to expand