Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark has been hailed as a strategic genius for helping the conference negotiate its massive media rights extension.
Yormark would beg to differ, saying there was some “luck” involved in landing the deal.
The Big 12 reached a six-year extension with ESPN and Fox in October 2022. The new deal, which runs through 2030-31, is worth almost $2.3 billion.
Yormark admitted on this week’s edition of the Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast that the Big 12 got lucky according to John Ourand at Sports Business Journal.
“At the time, I didn’t realize that was really the last big media deal that was available, especially in our industry of collegiate athletics,” Yormark said. “Sometimes in life you gotta get lucky. And we got a little lucky, because had we not done that deal at the time we did, who knows if I’d be your 100th show here today.”
In an era where conferences are being torn apart and reassembled in a bid to land more lucrative media contracts, it’s not an overstatement to say the new deal might have saved the Big 12. Consider the Pac-12, which was negotiating a new package at the same time. Those negotiations were made much more difficult last year when UCLA and USC announced plans to leave for the Big Ten.
The Big 12 essentially leapfrogged over its rival conference in securing a new deal first. The Pac-12 reportedly requested too much for its rights, failed to land an extension, and the rest is history. Six more schools fled the 108-year-old conference in recent weeks, leaving only four remaining. Four of those departing schools – Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah, are headed to the Big 12.
Yormark, who had been Big 12 commissioner for less than three months when he negotiated the ESPN/Fox deal told Marchand and Ourand he was sorry to put Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff in such a bad situation.
“But this was something that we had to do,” Yormark said. “And this was something that the board and our key stakeholders encouraged. I’m sorry that my gain is your loss. We had a very collegial conversation. George was fantastic, and I’ll be seeing him again in a couple of weeks at some industry meetings.”
Yet Yormark made no apologies about his conference’s expansion.
“It didn’t happen at night; it wasn’t a shock-and-awe moment,” Yormark said. “Everyone knew the Big 12 had an appetite to expand. Maybe some people in the industry didn’t like it that I was so intentional about it, but I’m very transparent. In fact, I telegraphed it. I just felt that was the right way to do it versus other things that I’ve witnessed and observed in our industry over time, where transparency really wasn’t the case.”
ESPN’s contract with the Big 12 included a clause that pays the conference more money as it added more schools. Yormark said he’s talked with Fox and “They’re involved financially and very supportive, so it worked out well for us.”
The podcast drops Wednesday.