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Big 12 Commissioner Would Like To Go West With Potential Expansion

Sep 7, 2022, 10:25 PM
Big 12 Conference logo...
The Big 12 Conference wasn't shy about pulling out attendance numbers against the Pac-12. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – If the Big 12 Conference fires up conference expansion again, there’s a targeted area in mind.

Out west.

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark has been on the job for over a month. He has a big vision for the Big 12’s future. The former Roc Nation COO and Brooklyn Nets executive hasn’t formally announced the Power 5 conference is going to expand, but if they do, westward is where he’s targeting.

Brett Yormark was asked about expansion during his Big 12 “listening tour”

Yormark, who continues to participate in his “listening tour” of Big 12 universities, was on a Wednesday visit to the University of Cincinnati. During his visit, he spoke with reporters and was asked about expansion.

“Obviously, going out west is where I would like to go, entering that fourth time zone,” said Yormark, per transcription from ABC News.

What would he be looking for in a potential Big 12 candidate?

“A program that has national recognition, one that competes at the highest level in basketball and football, stands for the right things, is a good cultural fit,” said Yormark.

Westward movement in the Big 12?

BYU is currently the only university in the new Big 12 Conference membership in the mountain or pacific time zones. Saturday night, BYU football hosts No. 9 Baylor in a late-night game, which will serve as a Big 12 sneak peek for when the Cougars join the league in 2023.

The late-night time zone is another valuable inventory piece as the Big 12 is currently in media rights extension talks with ESPN and FOX to go beyond their current contract that concludes after the 2024-25 academic year.

If the Big 12 expanded into the pacific time zone, it would give the conference a footprint that covers all four time zones.

It also wouldn’t hurt BYU from a travel perspective to have another western university in the conference.

There have been reports about the Pac-12’s “border schools,” which include Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah, as potential targets for the Big 12 Conference. San Diego State, from the Group of Five ranks, has been often viewed as a top target for the Pac-12 if they expand. So maybe Yormark and the Big 12 explore what the Aztecs offer?

Big 12 Conference is “open for business”

Last month, Yormark had a visit to Oklahoma State University. Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy said he had an hour-long conversation with Yormark. The potential westward movement in the Big 12 was a takeaway Gundy got from his chat with Yormark.

“He didn’t say this, but if anything –in my opinion– conference realignment, if anything happens, it’s going to be this league (Big 12) going probably this direction, that’s west,” said Gundy in August. “I don’t know that any of us, maybe him subconsciously thinking much, is going to go this direction (east). I think that’s what I got out of that. But he knows details on every school in that league (Pac-12), and I was shocked.”

Either way, Yormark continues to live up to the statement he issued at Big 12 Media Days that the Big 12 Conference is “open for business.” Since that comment in July, Yormark has stated the message wasn’t solely based on expansion but on anything that can add value to the Big 12 moving forward.

It was a statement that Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff was not fond of, as he said at Pac-12 Media Day in July, “With respect to the Big 12 being open for business, I appreciate that. We haven’t decided if we’re going shopping there or not yet.”

Kliavkoff later added, “That remark was a reflection of the fact I’ve been spending four weeks trying to defend against grenades that have been lobbed in from every corner of the Big 12 trying to destabilize our remaining conference. I understand why they’re doing it when you look at the relative media value between the two conferences. I get it. I get why they’re scared; why they’re trying to destabilize it. I was just tired of that. That’s probably not the most collegial thing I’ve ever said.”

Yormark’s next stop on the “listening tour” will be in Provo for Saturday’s BYU-Baylor game. Then on Monday, he will be in Houston to visit the University of Houston, then the tour will conclude with a stop in Orlando next week to visit UCF.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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