Why the Big 12 is in 'tremendous position' as conferences shuffle again

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy fields questions from the media during the 2022 Big 12 Football Media Days, Wednesday, July 13, 2022 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy fields questions from the media during the 2022 Big 12 Football Media Days, Wednesday, July 13, 2022 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Liz Parke, Big 12 Conference)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

ARLINGTON, Texas β€” Less than one year since Texas and Oklahoma announced a move to the SEC that sent the Big 12 to its former deathbed (and back again, according to several reports), the conference met again for football media days at AT&T Stadium.

This time, the Big 12 did so in a position of strength.

With the impending move of USC and UCLA from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten in 2024 taking up most of the oxygen across the country, all eyes shift toward the Pac-12's response. Will they try to scoop up the best programs in the Mountain West or recapture at least a portion of the Southern California media market? Maybe they'll try to merge with the Big 12, or attempt a "loose partnership" with the ACC.

Oregon and Washington to the Big Ten? What about Utah or Stanford? Any further questions β€” and all answers in that vein β€” likely lie with Notre Dame's decision whether to abandon its history of independence.

All the while, the Big 12 sat back and prepared for the 2022 college football season β€” this time, from a position of relative strength.

Buoyed by the additions of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, the league's coaches found themselves upbeat as they welcomed new commissioner Brett Yormark to the fold with Wednesday's first day of interviews. Nowhere was that more upbeat than Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, who arguably leads one of the league's top brands upon the departure of Bedlam rivals OU and the Longhorns.

"I don't think there's any question as this moves forward that the Big 12 Conference is in a tremendous position," Gundy said. "I said this after we acquired the four teams that came in. I don't need to go through the detail of each one of them, but if you look at the geographical television opportunities that they bring to the table, the number of viewers based on their location, the success they've had in football, they give us different time zones. They give us success and viewships, and ultimately that's what it comes down to.

"This is a power struggle for long-term television money. The Big 12 is better off today than it was at this time last year."

Gundy elaborated in a breakout session with local reports in attendance why he felt the additions of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF were the right call β€” and could have the conference facing the next round of realignment with an eye on expansion and not reduction.

Incoming commissioner Brett Yormak with Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy during Big 12 football media days, Wednesday, July 13, 2022 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Incoming commissioner Brett Yormak with Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy during Big 12 football media days, Wednesday, July 13, 2022 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Photo: Liz Parke, Big 12 Conference)

"We were very fortunate that four teams we gathered to come into this league will all bring a lot," Gundy said. "And I think the guy who they hired is fantastic.

"We all know what he has to do is a difficult job; sure it is. But we're in great shape. We gathered a couple of time zones on the east coast, we gathered one in the mountain time zone, and all the schools that jumped in have been tremendously successful recently. People don't concern themselves with what happened five years ago, they want to know what good they've done lately. That's the way it's going."

That "new leadership," of course, is Yormark, the 55-year-old former COO of Jay-Z's ROC Nation who will formally take over Aug. 1. But the 55-year-old Yormark proclaimed the Big 12 "open for business" as he prepared to engage in a new media rights negotiations with FOX and ESPN, and has begun taking calls from "multiple" schools about joining the league β€” including, reportedly, interest from Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah from the Pac-12.

There's also the matter of Texas and Oklahoma β€” specifically, whether or not the duo can leave the conference before the grant of rights expires in 2025 or earlier for an agreed-upon exit fee.

Yormark isn't afraid to have that conversation, though sources around the conference expect such a compromise to come with significant financial cost.

"In any situation like this, I always look for a win-win scenario," said Yormark, while also complimenting the presidents, athletic directors and other administrators at Texas and Oklahoma. "That being said, it's important that whatever happens is in the best interest of the conference.

"But I look forward β€” at the right time β€” to having those conversations."

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A proud graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Walker has covered BYU for KSL.com since 2015, while also mixing in prep sports, education, and anything else his editors assign him to do.

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