Big 12 Hires Roc Nation Exec Yormark as New Commissioner

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The Big 12 made it official Wednesday, ending speculation surrounding its atypical search for a new commissioner by hiring Brett Yormark, the COO of Jay-Z's Roc Nation, to lead the conference beginning August 1.

As reported by CBS Sports, Yormark brings extensive experience in the sports and entertainment industry but has yet to hold a position of significance in college sports. He will become the fifth commissioner in Big 12 history and serve under an initial five-year contract.

"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. "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 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," wrote Shehan Jeyarajah of CBS Sports. "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.

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, CBS Sports reported. Prior to his time at Roc Nation, Yormark spent nearly 15 years leading the NBA's 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.

Barclays Center soon became a college basketball destination, attracting the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament, and the Atlantic 10 Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament. Prior to joining the Nets, Yormark served as vice president of corporate sponsorships for NASCAR, where he oversaw a $750 million partnership agreement, the largest in history at that time, that gave Nextel Communications the naming rights to its premier racing series.

Yormark has been named to Crain’s “40 Under 40” list twice and the “Forty Under 40” three times by the Sports Business Journal. Under Yormark’s leadership, the Barclays Center became one of the top 10 entertainment venues worldwide for ticket sales.

“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.”

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 in 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.

Its the latest higher by a Power Five conference school that strayed from the typical college athletics personnel pipeline. Last year, the Pac-12 hired longtime entertainment executive George Kliavkoff coming off his tenure at MGM, and Pac-12 football and basketball have quickly undergone a change in strategy and investment. In January 2020, the Big Ten hired Kevin Warren, former chief operating officer of the Minnesota Vikings.

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