Reading Between the Lines from Brett Yormark on the Topic of Big 12 Expansion

The topic of expansion — across all of college athletics, but especially as it relates to the Big 12 — has been the storyline of the year (and maybe the decade). But Yormark on Wednesday in his appearance at Big 12 media days mostly played down the topic, opting instead for coach-speak commish-speak even with scuttlebutt about the league’s aggressive plans to add to its ranks swirling from Arlington all the way to the west coast.

Yormark’s comments taken at face value actually was mostly a big fat nothing burger, but seriously — no one can munch on a nothing burger. So we’ve added some toppings and seasoning to his comments, and below we’re chowing down with a translation of his comments. Think of it more as a reading between the lines or a spirited interpretation.

Let’s go piece by piece.

Yormark: I appreciate everyone making the effort to attend Big 12 football media days. Thank you, members of the media, for your coverage, and most importantly for your fairness during my first year.

Translation: I appreciate everyone making the effort to attend Big 12 football media days. Thank you, members of the media, for your coverage, and most importantly for your fairness during my first year. (OK, OK, I’ll skip to the meat and potatoes of his comments relating to expansion.)

Yormark: Let’s not forget during last year’s media days event, I announced that the Big 12 was open for business. Since
then, we’ve jumped ahead of the line and extended TV agreements with existing partners through 2031, creating tremendous stability and clarity for this conference.

Translation: How you like them apples, Pac-12?

Yormark: In working with our TV partners, we are looking for ways to innovate and create greater access to enhance the viewing experience for our fans from coast to coast. For the first time since the 2010 season, there will not be a round-robin scheduling format. I anticipate it will lead to exciting football until the last week of the season.

Translation: We’re in TV markets from Utah in BYU to Morgantown in West Virginia and Orlando in UCF, but wink-wink, four-corner schools, Oregon, UConn and Gonzaga. We’re digging your vibes. Check yes or no?

OK, now on to the Q&A section of his presser.

Question: To the question that every media member is sitting here wanting me to ask and everyone back home, let’s talk about expansion. What does expansion look like for the Big 12?

Yormark: I feel like I’ve been talking about expansion for a year now. When I said we were open for business last year, I think people took that as, my God, this guy is new and he wants to go and disrupt, I guess, in some respects.

But indicative of my opening comments today, open for business was that we were going to explore every and all possibility to grow revenue, to diversify our conference, and to do things that hadn’t been done before. We did a lot of that.

Relative to expansion I said coming out of our spring business meetings at the Greenbrier that we have a plan, and we have a plan for expansion, and I’m not going to really address it today. You can ask me, but I’m not really going to address it. We do have a plan, and hopefully we can execute that plan sooner than later.

But as I’ve always said, I love the composition of this conference right now. The excitement the four new members have brought to this conference has been incredible, and if we stay at 12, we’re perfectly fine with that.

If the opportunity presents itself where there’s something that creates value and aligns well with our goals and objectives, starting with the board, then we’re certainly going to pursue it.

Translation: When I first got here people saw me as a disruptor. Since then, I’ve done a lot of disrupting, and well, come to think of it, I guess folks are right. TLDR; the Big 12 is very much still open for business and seeking out ways to continue expanding. I’m not going to tell you that directly, but read between the lines, buddy. Gonzaga and UConn are in the mix, the four-corner schools might be itching to join us when the Pac-12 fails to get a TV deal. We in a good spot.

Question: Brett, what’s been your feedback from your board and your athletic directors considering expansion with a non-Power Five member, which would not necessarily upgrade the impending media contract?

Yormark:  Well, from my perspective, we have great collaboration with the board and our athletic directors. Obviously there’s lots of different routes you can take with expansion. As I said, we have a plan. But as it relates to a school that’s a non-Power Five, if they create value and they align well with our goals and objectives, it’s a conversation we’ll consider having. The great thing about my board and my AD partnership is that we collaborate all the time, and we can agree to disagree on certain things, and we have throughout the year. I’ve learned a lot from both governance groups. But again, if within the value equation there’s alignment, Power Five or non-Power Five, we’ll look to pursue it.

Translation: We really like Power Five schools but I mean if UConn and Gonzaga can elevate the Big 12 — the world’s best college basketball conference — to a superpower, then who am I to say no?

Question: Brett, I wanted to ask you, in terms of BYU being on the western flank of this conference, do you have hopes to find another broadcast partner out in the mountain or Pacific time zones at some point?

Yormark: Another broadcast partner?

Question: Another institution, I guess, to pair with BYU in that late TV window.

Yormark: First of all, we love BYU. Excited about them coming into the conference. They bring a different time zone, obviously, which is great for us. We’re the only conference in America that’s in three time zones. But right now, there’s nothing on the board. Again, we’ll explore all options, but until that point, we love the current makeup and we’re excited about it, but thank you for the question.

Translation: The Big 12 has nothing in the works in terms of adding another program from the west coast but it is very much open to doing so.

Question: I’ve heard you say that you wanted the conference to stay at 14 members even after this season. Can you expand on why you like 14 compared to 12 or 16? 

Yormark: I did say 14, you’re absolutely right. I do think there’s strength in numbers. But I also said we’re not chasing a number. If and when the opportunity presents itself to stay at 14, we’ll pursue it. But I did say that, and I backpedaled a little bit because I realize it’s not about chasing a number. It’s all about creating value for membership. We’ll see where that takes us.

Translation: Daggum, you have some great listening ears. I do like the idea of having a bigger conference than 12, despite the fact that we’re the Big 12, but my marketing department might not want me to say that aloud. So here’s what they prefer I say: “… it’s not about chasing a number. It’s all about creating value for membership.”

Question: When you do consider the prospect of future expansion into Thursday and Friday, how do you kind of weigh the interests of television exposure versus those of potential in-person attendees to the games? 

Yormark: It’s a great question. We collaborate with our ADs. We don’t do anything without the input and the sign-off from our ADs and our board. I will tell you that it’s very hot during the summer months, especially in the fall, so playing on a Friday night versus a Saturday morning does have its benefits. When you think about the tonnage of college football on air on a Saturday, it provides a lot of opportunity for us to kind of build our profile on a Friday night. But there’s a lot that goes into that decision. You’re absolutely right. It’s not just about visibility, it’s all about the fans and what’s right for our schools and their campuses. All that is part of the consideration set in how we move forward.

Translation: This is more to do about expanding viewership than membership but nonetheless, I’ll give it a go.

There’s a lot of football to compete with on Saturdays so we’re open to potentially playing during the back end of the work week. Whatever our TV partner prefers will go a long ways towards making those decisions, probably.