COLLEGE SPORTS

Big 12 Exit Meetings With ‘A Plan’ For Conference Expansion

Jun 2, 2023, 1:01 PM | Updated: Jun 3, 2023, 8:27 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – One of the pressing topics at the Big 12 meetings this week was conference expansion.

The Big 12’s four governance groups: Board of Directors, athletic directors, faculty representatives, and Senior Woman Administrators were all on-location at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.

Coming out of the meetings, Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark made it clear to reporters during a Zoom call on Friday that his league has “a plan” for expansion.

Big 12 discussed conference expansion at meetings

“We did discuss expansion, had a great discussion about expansion, in fact. And we have a plan,” Yormark said.

The commentary on expansion comes days after reports that Colorado has had “substantive” talks about leaving the Pac-12 for the Big 12 Conference. There have also been reports that the Big 12 is interested in UConn and Gonzaga.

“As I’ve said all along, we have an appetite to be a national conference in our makeup from coast-to-coast. And we do believe in the upside of basketball moving forward as a collective group. That being said, we love our current composition and love the four new schools that are coming in next month. However, if the opportunity presents itself to create value, we will pursue it. … It is a focus of ours and when we’re ready to speak more with greater specificity, we’ll do so.”

Yormark was asked specifically about Gonzaga if they are being considered as a full member or a basketball-only option for the Big 12.

The first-year Commissioner responded, “We’re going to consider all options. As I said before, we do see the upside in basketball moving forward for all of the right reasons. We think it’s undervalued, and there’s a chance for us to double down as the number one conference in America. But football’s the driver and we all know that. We’re exploring all options and all considerations at this time.”

Yormark went into further detail about what the league looks for in a potential new member.

“We have some guiding principles when we think about expansion. I mean, it’s all strategic here,” Yormark said. “At the top is the academic alignment and the leadership and the cultural fit and the geography and the athletic performance and the upside that a potential institution has as they would potentially join the Big 12. We think about all of those things as a collective group. And we discussed all of those guiding principles this week.”

What Big 12 Presidents value in potential expansion candidates

Big 12 Board of Directors Chairman Dr. Lawrence Schovanec was also part of the Zoom call with reporters on Friday. He said the Big 12 has hit “the jackpot” by hiring Brett Yormark as the league’s commissioner. In addition, he shared how the Big 12 presidents are approaching expansion.

“The current presidents and chancellors value the shared culture we have in the conference. That matters to us,” said Dr. Schovanec. “Our institutions share the same high academic standards and we compete at a very high level athletically. So naturally, those sorts of criteria do enter into our considerations. But I also think we have to be open to this changing landscape of athletics and that’s one of the skills and perspectives that Brett brings us. We’re taking a very open attitude, weighing all the different issues that are presented. And when the time is right and the situation is right, we’ll make a decision.”

The Big 12 will officially welcome BYU, UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston on July 1. All four institutions have been active in the meetings since they were formally invited to the conference in 2021. When they join, that will bring the membership to 14 for the 2023-24 academic year. Then the following year, it will drop back down to its namesake, 12 members after Texas and Oklahoma leave for the SEC.

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 Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Big 12 Exit Meetings With ‘A Plan’ For Conference Expansion