Athletics reported on March 3 that the conference has recently been in contact with Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah as the Pac-12 continues to negotiate a new media rights agreement.
In a news conference before the opening game of the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament at the T-Mobile Center, Yormark gave no hints about his progress in courting those schools, but reiterated that he will pursue any addition that makes his league more valuable.
“I love the makeup and composition of this conference going forward,” Yormark said. “I love the four new schools coming in July and the continuing eight. I think we are in a great place. But if there is a chance to improve, it is up to me as Commissioner to explore those possibilities. And that is exactly what I do.”
The Big 12 has also spoken with Gonzaga about potentially joining as a non-football member. Sources involved in the process have said so Athletics that Yormark wants clarity on the Pac-12’s situation before pursuing this addition.
“I like Gonzaga,” Yormark said. “It’s obviously a great program. My focus right now is to see what happens across our industry. There are a lot of moving parts. I continue to have conversations with Gonzaga. But I think when I prioritize, what our next move might be in terms of expansion, there are other things right now that I’m focused on.”
Since being hired as commissioner last July and publicly declaring that the Big 12 was “open for business,” Yormark has consistently said his priorities in expansion are finding schools that will increase the league’s geographic footprint and that expansion toward West would be ideal to carry out his vision of the Big 12 becoming a “truly national conference.”
The conference will officially add new members BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF in July and temporarily become a 14-team league until Oklahoma and Texas join the SEC in 2024.
“It has to be a good cultural fit first and foremost,” Yormark said. “We have a like-minded board and like-minded institutions, so we will not compromise on that. Whoever comes in, ultimately there has to be a cultural fit.”
Yormark did not mention the Pac-12 during his 18-minute speech, but touted his conference’s new television deal, an extension with current partners ESPN and Fox through 2030-31. He noted that the deal will make the Big 12 the only Power 5 league to partner with those two networks starting in 2025. The Pac-12’s negotiations with ESPN, Apple and Amazon are still ongoing.
“We live in such an unpredictable world and it was important to have some clarity and stabilize the conference,” Yormark said. “I thought the best way to do it was to get a deal with ESPN and Fox. Fortunately, they were willing to go early and we found common ground and we’re just glad we were able to to do that. Because if you think about where we are today, seven months into the job, we’re in a very different place than we were three, four months ago. You think about these media companies and the layoffs and some of their challenges, and the fact that we were able to cement a six-year extension with two of the biggest media partners in the business that really elevates and glamorizes our conference in every possible way.”
(Photo: William Purnell / USA Today)