The Big 12 just hired Brett Yormark to fill Bob Bowlsby’s empty seat.
Yormack is coming over from serving as COO of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. Which if you are unfamiliar are, “creating and supporting careers in every aspect of modern entertainment”. In other words, they manage and represent a lot of musicians and athletes. Prior to that, Yormack was the CEO of the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets for 15 years. He managed the franchise moving to Brooklyn and building the Barclays Center all while he worked with Jay-Z on the Nets new branding.
So what does this all mean for the Big 12? Let me tell a few of my thoughts on the matter:
I am not the only one who thought they Big 12 should NOT go the “traditional” route and hire some Power 5 AD. Like it or not, most of the country has the Big 12 as 4th or 5th in the P5 pecking order…and that was with Texas and Oklahoma. Those two jerk-offs are leaving in a couple years and we welcome in four former Non-P5 schools. This is all happening in the midst of the Big 12 media rights negotiations - with the current deals expiring in 2025.
Most tend to think that the current Big 12 is a more valuable media property with Texas and Oklahoma than without. Assuming the television networks agree with that, how to you build value in other ways? If you aren’t going to get the Big Bucks from Big TV, you better start getting creative. Speaking of….
First off, it doesn’t hurt to have a Commish with a ton of connections to agents of professional athletes and the NBA. But let’s concern ourselves with the kids while in college shall we:
This might be completely unfounded, but my first thought (well, second after thinking about where a spicey new media deal will come from) was how Brett here could provide value with NIL. Coming from a company whose basic concept is to get more money for their client and get their name out in splashy ways, color myself intrigued. The conference could deploy exclusive NIL strategies and partnerships similar to how Roc Nation manages and publicizes their clients. Trying to provide non-traditional value to a conference that needs it? Bringing in highly publicized big-name athletes might be a start. Hell, why stop there? Let’s treat each school in the Big 12 like a client? Let’s up the value of each team through similar methods. Let’s get some of those unconventional partnerships for the schools to help fill that money gap. Speaking of…
THE ART OF THE DEAL
Running the Nets and the operations for Roc Nation, you probably have to be pretty good at making mutually beneficial deals. If ESPN or FOX won’t pay a figure the Big 12 deals beneficial, then time to look elsewhere. I won’t be the first or last to suggest looking to a streaming service to DISRUPT the college sports media landscape. Yormack will be reaching out to all his contacts at some of those other giant media companies he’s worked with in the past. Would Apple/Amazon/Spotify (this is fun one) be willing to give the Big 12 a fraction of their giant money piles?
This might be a bit outside his purview, but do any of the sports gambling companies have any interest? The Pac-12 might have the inside track on that one, but imagine being able to watch a game on some sportsbook app. The game is on and all you have to do is click a button that is the screen to make a live bet on the same screen, updated in real time. I tend to believe one of the big sportsbooks would pay something for that ability. There might be some legal issues in some states with that, but hell we are in the NIL Wild West so let’s get weird.
NOT BOB BOWLSBY
I couldn’t write this entire piece without making this point. Losing schools to other conferences wasn’t ALL his fault, but it’s not not his fault, ya know? The two biggest brands in your conference somehow were able to sneak one by him. He appeased them at every turn in hopes that was going to be enough without ever addressing the root of the problem. They thought they were better than the entire conference and all he ever did was reinforce that idea. That is not a stable foundation to build and grow your conference from. Every member needs to be treated and considered like an equal in order to have a trusting relationship. Bobby let that simple truth fester forever. He did a fine job finding four new schools, but I think we could all agree the Big 12 would be in a better place with Texas and OU and those four new schools. Bob is old school, and it was time to go. Only time will tell if Yormack has what it takes in these uncertain times, but at least the conference is trying something different.
As the saying goes, “the definition of insanity is trying to do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”