June 29, 2022

Big 12 hires Brett Yormark as new commissioner

The Big 12 has hired Brett Yormark -- a longtime Northeastern sports executive who was previously serving as COO of Jay-Z's Roc Nation -- to be the fifth commissioner in league history. While Yormark has extensive experience in the sports and entertainment industry, he has yet to hold a position of significance in college sports.

"Thank you to the Big 12 Board, the ADs, the student-athletes, the whole Conference for giving me a chance to support what they all do," said Yorkmark, who will take over the conference on Aug. 1. "I'm here to listen, learn, find ways to add value, add resources and try to help shine a light on the importance of college athletics. I look forward to leveraging my experience and network alongside our presidents, chancellors and athletic directors to shape the future of the Big 12 brand and emphasize our collective strengths."

Yormark originally joined Roc Nation in 2019 as co-CEO of Roc Nation Unified, a division of the company that handles global licensing and brand opportunities, before being promoted to COO of the overall company in January. Prior to his time at Roc Nation, Yormark spent nearly 15 years leading the Nets as CEO, a job he started in 2005. Yormark oversaw the franchise's move from New Jersey to Brooklyn as well as construction of the Barclays Center. He only left when a new ownership group purchased the team in 2019. 

Yormark represents another sharp departure from tradition as FBS conferences seek commissioners with varied skillsets entering a critical period for college sports and particularly college football. Yormark will become one of the five or six most powerful voices in the room as major topics including College Football Playoff expansion and expanded players' rights are addressed in the coming months and years. Out of the three finalists for the Big 12 commissioner job, none worked in the college sports industry, according to Sports Illustrated.

"In Brett Yormark, we have chosen a highly adaptable leader who thrives in dynamic times," Texas Tech president and Big 12 chair Lawrence Schovanec said. "The landscape of college athletics is evolving to look more like the world Brett has been leading. He's authentic and genuine in the way he builds relationships and partnerships, and he works relentlessly to deliver impact.  As Brett immerses himself in college sports and connects with all our stakeholders, he will bring a fresh approach and dynamic energy to the Big 12 as we engage a new generation of student-athletes and fans."

Outgoing Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby took the helm of the conference directly from the athletic administration world with tenures as athletic director at both Iowa and Stanford.

However, the Big 12 is sharply turning another direction with this move and looking to an uncertain future that includes negotiations for a new media rights deal, expansion threats and the possibility of Power Five conferences breaking off in the coming years. 

The Pac-12 similarly opted to think outside the box when it searched for a new commissioner last year. Instead of picking another athletic department suit, the Pac-12 hired longtime entertainment executive George Kliavkoff coming off his tenure at MGM. The innovative choice has paid dividends as Pac-12 football and basketball have quickly undergone a change in strategy and investment. 

Similarly, the Big Ten opted to move away from a traditional college executive by hiring Kevin Warren -- former chief operating officer of the Minnesota Vikings -- in January 2020. With Yormark joining Warren and Kliavkoff, a majority of the Power Five conference commissioners are from outside college athletics. 

"Brett is one of the most skilled and knowledgeable executives in sports and entertainment," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.  "His decades of operational experience, relentless work ethic and strong industry relationships will be of enormous value to the Big 12, its schools and fans."

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