Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark shakes Houston Cougars Vice President for Athletics Chris Pezman. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)
The Houston Cougars pulled out all the bells and whistles for new Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark on Monday when he stopped on campus as a part of his listening tour that he has been doing across the conference, including the new universities.
The commissioner was greeted by the Spirit of Houston, the UH marching band, cheerleaders and the university’s mascots Shasta and Sasha. During his visit, Yormark spent hours in meetings with UH officials, met with the athletic department’s coaches and toured the university’s facilities, which were branded with the Big 12’s logo.
The new commissioner spoke about various topics while at UH, who will officially join the Big 12 on July 1, 2023. Yormark talked about his future goals for the conference, what the Houston Cougars bring to the Big 12 and how marketing and branding are crucial for the conference going forward.
“For us and for me, it is about being the best version of ourselves, so that is what I am really focused on,” Yormark said. “How can we best position the Big 12 in the future and do all the right things? And like I said on media day, for me, my job is to vet out all possibilities and opportunities to make sure wherever we go is additive, not dilutive.”
Looking at all options
Since the tectonic shift in college athletics over the summer when UCLA and Southern California announced they were going to join the Big Ten by 2024, there has been speculation about what the future of the Pac 12 looks like.
The Big 12, which found itself in a similar position last year when Oklahoma and Texas announced they were leaving for the Southeastern Conference, reacted by adding Cincinnati, BYU, UCF and Houston.
When the Pac 12 lost UCLA and USC, reports surfaced that the Big 12 was seeking to add members from the Pac 12 to increase the Big 12’s reach into the western United States.
During the conference’s football media day, Yormark said the Big 12 is open for business, a phrase he repeated on Monday. In Houston, the commissioner clarified the phrase. To him, open for business means looking over every possible option and figuring out whether it is in the best interest of the conference.
“Open for business doesn’t mean just expansion, it means as a conference we are no longer going to be stagnant,” Yormark said. “We are going to build our brand. We are going to build our business. And as a part of doing both, expansion has to be a part of the conversation.”
In regard to expansion, the commissioner did not mention any schools specifically, but he did say he wishes to extend the conference’s reach. However, he also said he does not feel like expanding is absolutely required for the conference’s long-term success.
“Do I have a goal of nationalizing this conference? Absolutely,” Yormark said. “Does that mean that we should look at expanding our geographic footprint in order to do that? Why not? But we need to make sure one that timing is right; two, whatever we do is additive, it’s not dilutive, and my job is to explore every and all options.”
Yormark said the most important thing when regarding expansion is fit. The commissioner said he believes the new Big 12 and its members are aligned.
Outside of expansion, the Big 12 sees its success in marketing and branding. Yormark, who enters the Big 12 from the marketing and TV world, said he wants to lean on entertainment, and even said he wants music to be a part of the conference’s future.
Big 12 effect on Houston Cougars
Houston Cougars football head coach Dana Holgorsen is no stranger to the Big 12. He has over a decade of experience with West Virginia and Texas Tech in the past. Holgorsen is new to Yormark, who was named the new commissioner in June. The Houston head coach believes Yormark’s background is going to benefit the conference.
“He is fun to listen to, and I think he is going to bring a lot of excitement towards the Big 12 and how you market the Big 12, which is all resources,” Holgorsen said. “It is going to be awesome for the University of Houston.”
In regard to Houston, the commissioner spoke highly of the athletics department. From facilities to the success of some of the programs in the last few years, Yormark hopes joining the conference helps amplify UH’s prosperity.
“In every respect, the investments are being made,” Yormark said. “There is a process in place. Chris (Pezman) and his team are fantastic. We can’t be more excited to welcome the Houston family into the Big 12 family.”