Big 12 Commissioner Believes BYU, Newcomers Are Ready For Power Five

Jun 5, 2023, 12:36 PM | Updated: 12:37 pm

PROVO, Utah – Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark has rewritten the conference narrative in less than a year.

When he stepped into the Commissioner chair last August, he made it clear the league was “open for business.”

The business has involved landing a new media rights deal with ESPN and FOX beginning in 2025. Putting together an early exit deal between Texas and Oklahoma, netting the Big 12 $100 million.


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That business includes a future with four new schools, BYU, UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston.

Yormark inherited the four new institutions after previous Commissioner Bob Bowlsby made them all a priority after Texas and Oklahoma announced they were leaving for the SEC. Bowlsby pursued the four newcomers like a coach in recruiting, pursuing the best prospects left on the board.

Each has had its moments of national relevance on the gridiron in recent years. BYU during the COVID season. UCF with a pair of undefeated regular seasons in 2017 and 2018. Houston reached the Peach Bowl and defeated Florida State. Then Cincinnati became the only Group of Five program to reach the College Football Playoff.

But are these athletic departments ready to compete in the Big 12 Conference?

Brett Yormark on the readiness of BYU, UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston

Yormark believes they are when they officially become members next month on July 1.

“Having observed where the four schools have been over the last nine months, they’ve had two years and a two-year runway effectively to get ready,” Yormark said. “They have built infrastructure, they’ve invested resources, and I’m really pleased with where they are right now.”

Each institution has launched plans or donation drives for facility enhancements.

At Cincinnati, they announced plans for a new practice facility and performance center. Over at Houston, head football coach Dana Holgorsen has been pushing hard for a football operations building. As a result, the Coogs launched a “Houston Rise” campaign that has raised $50 million in pledges and outright donations since last June.

UCF has the Mission XII campaign to eventually have a football operations building near its stadium, per renderings.

Then at BYU, they are expanding their football offices and will have it completed by the start of fall camp on August 1.

But there’s always more work to be done to compete in the arms race of Power Five athletics.

“We can always get better, even the existing institutions,” Yormark said. “But they’re ready to be part of the Big 12. We embrace them for all of the right reasons.”

At BYU, a common theme among the athletic department has been to “level up” as they transition into the Big 12.

The work continues

BYU’s athletic department has dreamed of competing in one of the premier conferences for decades. But, since getting that coveted invite to the Big 12, the real work has been in motion. That work includes improving facilities, increasing support staff, and ramping up ticketing that looks more like Power Five peers.

“They’ve been part of our meetings throughout the year, both coaches meetings and administrative meetings,” said Yormark. “So they’ve ramped up in all of the right areas. And I’m just looking forward to having them join us and to be part of this new Big 12.”

One of the intriguing aspects of the Big 12 Conference after Texas and Oklahoma move on is that the league’s power structure is up for grabs. The alignment of the Big 12 has never been in a better place among the Board of Directors and ADs, but who is ready to take that spot as the top athletic department?

We will start to find out on July 1, when BYU, UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston officially join. A day that the Big 12 has “great marketing plans” to celebrate the new makeup of the league, according to Yormark, who also noted that there would be a lot of marketing at Media Day on July 12-13 in Arlington, Texas.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for 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 Commissioner Believes BYU, Newcomers Are Ready For Power Five