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Brett Yormark praises Big 12 as ‘deepest’ college football conference

LAS VEGAS — Brett Yormark kicked off the Big 12’s first media day as a 16-team league with an optimistic outlook for what he called “the deepest conference in America.”

Yormark said Tuesday that the additions of Utah, Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado are a boost, despite the loss of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, and gives the Big 12 stability in an era of constant change.

“We solidified ourselves as one of the top three conferences in America,” he said. “There has never been a better time than right now to be part of the Big 12. We are truly a national conference in 10 states, four time zones and all eyes are now on the Big 12 for all the right reasons. I think it’s safe to say we are more relevant now than ever before.”

Yormark touted the strength of the league as a whole, pointing out that the Big 12 had a record-tying nine teams in bowl games, with the second-best win percentage in college football, but also had an NCAA tournament-record eight men’s basketball bids and seven in women’s basketball, and added even more powerful basketball programs.

The NCAA antitrust settlement awarding more than $2.7 billion of back damages, along with a new revenue-sharing model, provides an opportunity for the Big 12 to be aggressive and innovative in finding new sources of revenue, Yormark said. He characterized his league as a “mature startup” who can take more risks than some of the more traditional conferences.

The Big 12 has reportedly explored selling naming rights to the league and has explored private equity investment opportunities, which Yormark confirmed, reaffirming a statement from two years ago when he said the league was interested in expanding and was “open for business.”

“As we enter this new chapter, I can assure you the 12 schools will compete at the highest levels and they will continue to invest,” he said. “From a conference perspective, we are exploring all options. Two years later, I guess you could stay, we’re still open for business. Naming rights is one. Private equity is another.”

Yormark said he expects his teams will embrace the “enhanced student-athlete” benefits afforded under the settlement, and his job was to find a way to create more revenue for teams to remain competitive.

This year’s media days are in Las Vegas because of renovations at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, where the event is usually held. But Yormark said he considers Las Vegas to be a key market for the league as “the entertainment and sports capital of the world.” He said he’ll continue to find ways to broaden the exposure of his teams and league, even working with ESPN and Fox on possible new TV windows for game times, but said he could not elaborate further yet.

As the SEC and Big Ten continue to flex their muscle in the future of college football, Yormark said he is not concerned.

“I wake up every morning and I think about one thing, the Big 12 being the best version of itself. Everything else doesn’t really matter,” Yormark said. “If we take care of business, we’re going to be just fine. I’m a firm believer in that. We’re more relevant now than we’ve ever been. We’re a national conference. We’ve got 16 great brands. We’re going to be the deepest football conference in America and we’ll be well represented in the CFP.”

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