“We underperformed” – Yormark knows that victories mean more than Vegas

LAS VEGAS – When Brett Yormark took over the Big 12 two years ago, I nicknamed him “the little drummer” because of his background as a musician in a garage band.

Now I’m ready to name him Brandmaster Flash.

Branding is Yormark’s specialty. He lives for this stuff. It shows in many of his decisions, including adding a halftime show to the Big 12 Football Championship Game and applying for naming rights for the entire conference.

This is also reflected in Yormark moving one of the league’s most important events, the Big 12 Football Media Days, to the only place that can surpass Jerryworld in excessive opulence.

Ultimately, though, the best way for the Big 12 to “build their brand” is to win football games, especially when they’re playing against the power pair of the SEC and Big Ten. More specifically, that league needs to win in January.

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“I’m not going to stop until we’re number one in America,” Yormark said. “That’s my goal. I shouldn’t have anything else. And that’s the goal of our conference and the goal of our (athletic directors). Why would we do what we do if we don’t strive to be number one?”

That’s great and exactly what Yormark should say. I think he believes it too. The guy has a lot of New York attitude about him.

Believing it and doing it are about as far apart as Vegas and Morgantown, West Virginia.

See, the branding aspect is important. Yormark’s creativity and aggressiveness have helped raise the league’s profile. He negotiated a contract extension with ESPN and Fox worth $2.2 billion in 2022 that will keep the league’s coffers well-filled for years to come. He wants to bring certain events to Mexico to expand the conference’s presence. And of course, everything is for sale. Yormark will offer sponsorship for anything he can, from potential patches on Big 12 referees’ jerseys—maybe Lasik eye surgery?—to bringing title sponsors to every possible event.

Hence, Totino’s Big 12 Football Media Days. Don’t worry – last year’s title sponsor, Trapper Beef Jerky, was still there as a secondary sponsor. As was EA Sports, who offered a sneak peek of the College Football ’25 game. After all, nothing says college dorms more than beef jerky, pizza rolls and video games.

Brandmaster Flash is always looking for the next big, hottest thing.

“Partnering with ESPN and Fox is critical for us as they highlight and amplify the issues, tell stories and create the right narrative,” Yormark said. “Our partnership with TuneIn (radio) gives us more relevance and a better narrative than ever before. We’re exploring a FAST channel, doubling down on our social media efforts and engaging with current and future student-athletes where they are. Critically important. … We’re more relevant today than at any time in our history.”

FULL PRESS CONFERENCE: Brett Yormark talks about the NEW look of the Big 12 // via PHNX Sports on Youtube

Wait a minute, Flash, seriously? The Big 12 is more relevant now than it ever was? More than when Texas A&M, Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma were in the league? More than in 2005, when the Longhorns won the national title? More than in 2000, when the Sooners took the crown?

I think the 46 degree heat in Vegas (no, I’m not kidding, it’s The hot) could have melted Yorkmark’s brain.

No one is more relevant in college football than the SEC. The Big Ten is the only one that has a chance of displacing the “It Just Means More” conference. The reason is simple: These leagues win national championships.

Michigan is the reigning champion. The SEC has won 13 titles in the last 18 years. In the entire 28-year history of the Big 12, only Nebraska, OU and Texas have won national championships. All three are long gone.

The new 16-team Big 12, bolstered by the Four Corners additions from the recently disbanded Pac-12, will not be irrelevant. It could end up being the most parity league in all of college football. Still, the question remains: Can it win national championships?

“I think the winner of the Big 12 will have a chance year after year to prevail and get to the championship game. And I think you just have to look at the situation two years ago,” said TCU coach Sonny Dykes, who led the Frogs to the CFP final in the 2022 season. “I think the league is better positioned now to accomplish that than it was then.”

Big 12 Media Days Football

At Big 12 Media Days on Tuesday, Brett Yormark said the league “underperformed” in football last year despite sending a conference-record nine teams to bowl games.

Lucas Peltier, Associated Press

When I asked Utah’s Kyle Whittingham if this year’s Big 12 champion could win a national title, he said, “Absolutely. Why not? We’ll see, but I would say absolutely.”

What else are the coaches supposed to say? The fact is, no one in the Big 12 is considered a clear favorite to win the outright. We’re in Vegas, so let’s go to one of those ubiquitous sportsbooks and look at the odds for the 2025 CFP title. The Big 12’s best hope is Utah, which would pay out an average of $6,000 on a $100 bet on the Utes up front. Bookmakers see 16 other teams across the country with better odds to win the outright than Utah, the Big 12 favorite.

The Big 12 set a record by sending nine teams to bowl games in 2023. So what. No one would point to the winner of the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl as a sign of college football’s credibility.

Even Yormark recognizes this to some extent. When asked, he admitted: “Last year, quite frankly, we did a little worse.”

The Big 12 went 5-4 in bowl games last season, coincidentally tied with the Big Ten and SEC for the second-best record of any conference. (The now-defunct Pac-12 went 5-3.) But for the 18th consecutive year, it failed to win the most important game of the season.

“We’re one of the top three conferences in America — and I say that a lot — and we’re getting better and better,” Yormark said. “Think about where we were 24 months ago and think about where we are today. … We’re getting better and better and I like where we’re going.”

Brandmaster Flash will continue to strive to increase awareness of the Big 12 brand name.

If one of the teams in his league could win the sport’s jackpot, it would be a great help to him.