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Big 12 Conference ushers in Roc Nation co-CEO as next commissioner

The Big 12 faces challenges in revenue with the impending departure of Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC.

IRVING, Texas — Editor's note: The Associate Press contributed to this story.

The Big 12 Conference announced Brett Yormark, CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and co-CEO of Roc Nation, as the league's next commissioner. 

The league’s Board of Directors named Yormark to replace Bob Bowlsby, who announced in April he would be stepping away from the position

“In Brett Yormark, we have chosen a highly adaptable leader who thrives in dynamic times. The landscape of college athletics is evolving to look more like the world Brett has been leading,” said Lawrence Schovanec, President of Texas Tech University and Chair of the Big 12 Conference Board of Directors. “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.”

The background for Yormark isn't in college athletics, but he could play an interesting role for a conference bracing for challenges in revenue with the impending departures of Oklahoma and Texas while adjusting to athletes cashing in on use of their celebrity.

Yormark is expected to start Aug. 1, but will be likely to make his first public appearance at Big 12 football media days in the Dallas area July 13-14.

“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,” Yormark said. “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's succession of Bowlsby comes in an ever-evolving time for the league, which is set to lose its two top collegiate brands, Oklahoma and Texas. The dynamic duo announced in 2021 their intent to leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in 2025. The Big 12, however, will welcome the University of Houston, BYU, Cincinnati and the University of Central Florida in 2023.

Yormark joined Jay-Z's marketing agency in 2019 as co-CEO of Roc Nation Unified, which handles licensing and branding. The 55-year-old was promoted to the company's overall chief operating officer in January.

Before Roc Nation, Yormark spent almost 15 years with the Nets, overseeing the club's move from New Jersey and construction of the Barclays Center. Yormark left the Nets after Joseph Tsai bought controlling interesting in 2019.

Yormark was with NASCAR before the Nets, overseeing the $750 million agreement with Nextel Communications for naming rights to the circuit's top racing series.

“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.”

Yormark joins the Big 12 in a period of uncertainty, although not one as dire as when Bowlsby took over. The 70-year-old Bowlsby is retiring but planning to transition into an interim role until his contract expires in 2025.

The league in 2012 was coming off a two-year period when it lost four schools to three other conferences and at times appeared on the brink of collapse. The Big 12 eventually settled as a 10-team league with the additions of TCU and West Virginia, and secured the lucrative media deal not long after hiring Bowlsby.

The Big 12 enjoyed almost a decade of relative stability before the stunner from Oklahoma and Texas last summer. Now the conference has to battle the perception that the loss of the Sooners and Longhorns has dropped it a notch below the other Power Five conferences.

    

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