Brett Yormark has an impressive resume.
He was COO of Roc Nation; co-CEO of Roc Nation Unified; president and CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment Global, which controls the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center; and helped build NASCAR into a major brand.
On Aug. 1, he became commissioner of the Big 12.
Yormark told Fox News Digital he’s “really enjoying” his new role and position as one of the top commissioners in major college sports and is beginning to find a rhythm with college football underway and the college basketball season right around the corner.
He said he sees room for growth and opportunity for the conference, which was founded in 1994.
“I think the conference has incredible upside, well positioned. My mindset coming in is this is like a mature startup in 26 years but a lot of possibilities and opportunities. So, over the last two and a half months, it’s really been about how do we best position the conference to move forward in an effective manner, starting with organization redesign, outsourcing some thinking,” he said.
“There’s been a lot to do and a lot to think about, but so far so good. I don’t see any major obstacle. There’s just a lot of things we need to look at. It’s kind of coming in and almost doing a full audit of a business. Doing a SWOT analysis — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And look at it most holistically as you can and then define the strategy. But I think we’re well on our way doing that, and I’m excited.
“Between the board and all of our key stakeholders, we’re really aligned. I think we have a common mission and vision on where we want to take this thing. We want to grow, we want to monetize the opportunities that are available to us, we want to contemporize our brand. I think we want to get younger, grow our audience. So, it’s a very exciting time for the conference.”
Yormark talked about what intrigued him about the commissioner’s job and said college sports was always something he was interested in getting involved with, but he didn’t think he’d do so as a conference chief.
“I don’t want to say I’ve always been a change agent, but to some degree I have been. When I went to NASCAR, they were in the midst of change and evolution. Obviously, when I took the job as the CEO of the Nets, they were in a period of change – a bit of a dormant franchise in New Jersey with aspirations to move to Brooklyn,” Yormark said.
“When I look at this opportunity, it kind of follows that pattern where, collectively myself, my colleagues, we could have real impact and bring about positive change in an environment that’s evolving right now right in front of us. I guess you could say that was probably the impetus for me,” Yorkmark said
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“And I always wanted to be in college sports. It’s always been on my short list. I call it my progression ladder, career ladder. I’m thrilled with the opportunity. I didn’t know if it would materialize or not, but I thought if I did get in college sports, it would be more like an AD. I never thought about running a league, but I’m really excited about it and I think we can have real impact.”
Yormark embarks on a journey in an ever-changing college athletics landscape with conferences competing in expansion and realignment, the hot debate over equality across all sports and the emergence of name, image and likeness.
He told Fox News Digital the focus for him was to utilize the resources he has to turn the Big 12 into the best version it can be and not so much focus and compete with what the SEC or the Big Ten are doing.
“I think we have to market ourselves more effectively. We’ve got to nationalize ourselves,” Yormark said. “We’ve got to connect with youth culture. We’ve got to get in the consciousness of student-athletes. We’ve got to stand for all the right things. We got to have a great vision, but we have to have great tactics to get us there. And I think if we do that … and it’s not really about competing with the SEC and the Big Ten for me, it’s truly being the best version of ourselves, and we’ve a ways to go, candidly.
“We have not optimized our potential. That’s why I kind of look at this as a mature startup. But I think we can create a point of difference for sure from what we stand for to what our brand represents, to the member institutions, which I think are some of the biggest brands in sports. I think we have a real opportunity here to differentiate ourselves, and it’s incumbent upon me to figure out how we get there with them.”
He added that expanding the Big 12 to where he wants it to be involves taking a look at equity across athletics. Former Penn swimmer Lia Thomas and the NCAA’s transgender participation policies were a hot-button issue toward the end of the 2021-22 academic year.
“Listen, it’s something we all aspire to do,” he said of ensuring fair play across all sports. “It’s something that, when I speak to my key stakeholders, equity is a big part of it. We’re going to announce the hiring of our first (chief diversity equity and inclusion) executive, which I think is critically important. How do we think about equity across all different areas, and how do we connect to communities in all the right ways? That’s a big part of it, 100%, and we’re working towards it.”
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With NIL, Yormark said he hoped there would be more organization to it and a more level playing field.
“It’s a work in progress. But also, I’m an advocate of NIL, but I also feel like there needs to be uniformity and an even playing field,” he told Fox News Digital. “We’ve got to put some parameters and guidelines that everyone can sign up for and feel comfortable with. I think that’s the conversation that’s being had right now. This is relatively new, but there’s still some work to be done for sure.”
With Texas and Oklahoma set to depart the conference in 2025, the Big 12 will welcome four new member institutions next year – BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston. By 2030, the Big 12 could look very different, but Yoarmark said he hoped the conference was doing right by the student-athlete.
“I want us to be financially viable for all the member institutions. I’d love to be in all four time zones. I’d love us to be the most culturally relevant conference in America,” he told Fox News Digital. “I want us to be on the consciousness of every student-athlete. I want us to be destinational and aspirational for all the right reasons. I want us to use our platform as best we can to bring about positive change in our communities. I think that’s critically important.
“If, in a couple years from now, people said all those things about us, I’d be very pleased. Obviously, I want to perform at the highest levels for all the right reasons. But, also again, when you get back to the student-athlete, I want to be a conference that’s all about the long game. Are we best preparing these student-athletes for life? Not just for the big game, but for the long game, and I think that’s critically important.”