Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark addresses future college football expansion

More college football expansion? Don't bet on it right now, but the Big 12 remains "open for business"
An image of the Big 12 Conference logo on the field during a college football game.
An image of the Big 12 Conference logo on the field during a college football game. / Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark is fond of saying that his conference is open for business, and he maintained that position recently when addressing potential future college football realignment.

But during a press conference held this week, Yormark was also careful to note that the Big 12 is not actively seeking any new members right now.

"We explore every and all opportunity to create value for our members, for our student-athletes," Yormark said. "It's what we've been doing since I on-boarded and we'll continue to have that mindset."

But not looking for new schools? "No, I'm not," he said.

"I've said from Day 1, we are open for business," Yormark added. "I guess you could say that we are open for business now more than ever before."

That business is about to get a lot more interesting in the wake of the historic House vs. NCAA settlement, which in part will force the NCAA, conferences, and schools to pay players for the first time in history.

Needing more money to do that, more options will have to be on the table.

That may include bringing in private equity investment, a cash injection which would entail inviting multi-billion dollar funds to invest in college football and other sports.

What exactly that would look like, and what kind of return on investment they would want, is anyone's guess, but it would certainly give programs access to more money.

"Private equity has been out there in the news and people are thinking about it," Yormark said.

"In some respects, private equity is a validation of where this industry is going and the growth. I don’t look at it as a bad thing."

Yormark led the Big 12's expansion project during the historic conference realignment that took place last offseason and will become official this summer.

After losing football powerhouses Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, the Big 12 responded by adding Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and Arizona State to its membership, effective in July.

But while the dust appears to have settled on major expansion, two other marquee brands may come onto the market in the future.

Florida State and Clemson are suing the ACC in an effort to challenge that conference's enormous early exit fees charged to schools wishing to depart before the 2036 expiration date on the league's grant of rights agreement.

In the event of a settlement, it is believed both those schools would leave the ACC and join another conference in the hope of getting a share of a larger media contract.

But if the Big 12 were interested in acquiring one or both of those schools, it would likely have serious competition in both the SEC and the Big Ten, college football's two budding super-conferences.

And those schools would likely prefer to join one or the other of those leagues, given the lead they have on the competition when it comes to earning media revenue.

The Big 12 said it will distribute $470 million to its member schools for the 2023-24 year, a new record for the conference, but that figure still lags behind the SEC and Big Ten.

Future projections indicate the Big 12 will distribute around $50 million to each school starting in 2025-26 once additional money from the NCAA Tournament and College Football Playoff is added to the total, according to CBS Sports estimates.

Meanwhile, the SEC handed out an average of $51.3 million each to its schools in recent reporting, behind the Big Ten, which leads the nation with just over $60 million per school.

And both those numbers are expected to rise once their new media contracts kick in.

But with plenty of intangibles still to be sorted out on the expansion front, and with conferences needing more revenue streams to pay players, the Big 12 is keeping its options open.

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James Parks

JAMES PARKS

James Parks is the founder and publisher of College Football HQ. He previously covered football for 247Sports and CBS Interactive. College Football HQ joined the Sports Illustrated Fannation Network in 2022.