Mark Harlan Talks Big 12 Finances, Upcoming Pac-12 Season

Aug 21, 2023, 11:37 AM | Updated: 11:51 am

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Athletics is preparing for some big changes while in the midst of their final year in the Pac-12 and athletic director Mark Harlan says the Utes are in a “great spot” to handle it.

Utah will be heading to the Big 12 in 2024 after spending 13 seasons in the Pac-12. Obviously, moving conferences requires a lot of work to sort out schedules among other things, but Harlan told KSL Sports’ DJ & PK that the Utes should be able to handle it.

Part of the optimism over the move comes from the financial side of things where Harlan expects the Utes to be in a good spot not only after their final year in the Pac-12 but moving forward into the Big 12 as well.

Mark Harlan’s Optimism For Utah’s Future

Utah, like the rest of their Pac-12 cohorts had to navigate a shortened 2020 Covid-19 season. Most of the rest of college athletics figured out how to get through the pandemic without too much headache, but the Pac-12 took an ultra-cautious approach that put them a little behind in comparison.

Harlan says despite the shortened year, the Utes came out pretty good financially and the recovery both on and off the field has been pretty successful.

“Coming out of the pandemic- is something I think everyone here, students, coaches, staff, etc. should be really proud of,” Harlan said. “We spent a lot of time during that period talking about just kind of launching like a rocket and being the best version of ourselves. Keeping academics at a high level while also chasing down a lot of championships. I think we emerged from Covid in a really strong way.”

“In terms of our financial stability coming out of that- that goes right to campus partnership,” Harlan continued. “The leadership of Taylor Randall- the trustees- certainly we had debt coming out of that, but we set up a program to manage that all along agreeing none of that could hold us back. That’s certainly been the case.”

An Early Look At The Big 12 Financials For Utah

Moving forward, Harlan and the Utes see opportunities to continue to strengthen themselves financially while also putting themselves in the best position continue winning a lot.

“Moving forward, obviously, we’re in the last year of this Pac-12 media contract,” Harlan said. “That puts us right at 28 million dollars in media money. We’re going to still sit down a lot with the Big 12 folks and learn a lot about how the average payout of the television deal will be going forward. We think it will be pretty close to what we are seeing now, but what you do see in that conference that is a little bit more lifted than the last few years of the Pac-12 because the Pac-12 has had some good years is you do see some additional revenue, particularly in their events.”

Where Harlan thinks the Big 12 will separate themselves financially compared to the Pac-12 is their commitment to selling out big events such as their football championship game or basketball tournament.

“Utah has helped sellout the Pac-12 Championship Game the past two years in football,” Harlan said. “We’ve seen some real upsurge in monies there, but their football championship in Dallas, their men’s basketball tournament in Kansas City and their other events just sellout on a regular basis. Of course, we know about their men’s basketball performance in terms of units. That really adds up. We’re expecting kind of a push to slightly above this year, but we’re going to be sitting down with them and getting all of the details of the financial situation.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Mark Harlan Talks Big 12 Finances, Upcoming Pac-12 Season