Yormark: Big 12 had conversations with UConn, Gonzaga but is done expanding
Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark says his conference is done expanding, shutting down the possibility of adding UConn and Gonzaga after engaging with both basketball powers on potential membership.
Less than two weeks after the Big 12 announced Pac-12 schools Arizona, Arizona State Colorado and Utah will switch leagues and join the conference next year, Yormark appeared on the “Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast” and revealed other potential moves.
“I did have conversations with UConn and Gonzaga, and unfortunately, things didn’t work out, only because the dream scenario unfolded for us, so those conversations are no longer,” Yormark said. “I’m a big admirer of both of those programs. They’re fantastic for all the right reasons, but I’m focused on the transition of those four (additions) right now.”
UConn plays in the Big East and just won its fifth men’s NCAA basketball championship in April. The school is also a powerhouse in women’s basketball. The Huskies compete as an independent in the top tier of Division I football.
Gonzaga, which plays in the West Coast Conference, has been one of the dominant men’s basketball programs for about two decades.
Big 12 men’s basketball has surged in recent years and emerged as the most competitive conference in the country. Yormark has said he believes men’s college basketball could be a source of untapped value for the conference in future media rights deals.
The Big 12 is saying goodbye to Texas and Oklahoma after this season. Those flagships schools are moving to the Southeastern Conference. But with the addition of Pac-12’s so-called Four Corners schools, the Big 12 will have 16 members, spanning from Orlando, Florida, to Salt Lake City, Utah.
“We feel now — being in 10 states, having over 90 million people in our footprint, being in four time zones — gives the Big 12 a chance to do some amazing things when we get back into that next TV negotiation,” Yormark said on the podcast. “So the No. 1 guiding principle for us was value creation, and it will always be that as we think about expansion or, for that matter, anything else we do.”
The Big 12 agreed to an extension of its media rights deals with Fox and ESPN last fall, though the deal has not been officially announced.
The Big 12 jumped ahead of the Pac-12 to grab a deal that will pay its schools about $31 million per year.
That move undercut the Pac-12 and its commissioner, George Kliavkoff, and left the conference unable to land a competitive deal. That subsequently led to six of its schools bailing for other leagues, including Oregon and Washington to the Big Ten next year.
With only four schools remaining, Stanford, California, Oregon State and Washington State, the future of the Pac-12 is in doubt.
Yormark said he reached out to Kliavkoff and the two spoke last week. He said he told Kliavkoff he was sorry to put him in a tough spot and they had a “collegial conversation.”
“I still have a little bit of a knot in my stomach,” Yormark said. “I never want my gain to be anyone else’s loss.”
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