MORGANTOWN — Brett Yormark’s vision for the Big 12 goes beyond expansion, a point he began to drive home Tuesday at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Speaking at the conference’s media day for women’s basketball, the second-year commissioner outlined several changes he has in store for what will be a 16-team league starting in 2024.
The expansion will come by adding Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado, while Texas and Oklahoma are departing for the SEC.
Among the changes Yormark is working on — with help from TV partner ESPN — is creating an alternate broadcast for select men’s and women’s basketball games this season.
“We will continue to provide new levels of access and behind-the-scenes content across our broadcasts,” Yormark said. “We will be industry leaders when it comes to broadcast enhancements and innovation. These enhancements will be applied not just to men’s basketball but to women’s, as well.”
The idea would have the traditional broadcast on one ESPN network, while the alternate broadcast would be on a different ESPN network that would feature some type of Big 12 personalities (analysts, coaches, players) giving their thoughts on the game while it’s being played.
A popular comparison would be the Peyton and Eli Manning alternate broadcast ESPN uses during Monday Night Football.
Yormark has stressed since taking over the Big 12 in 2022 he wants to make the conference hipper to the younger generation of fans.
“For us it’s a way to introduce the game to a younger audience that typically isn’t watching it on a digital platform or traditional linear. We’re exploring that option,” Yormark said. “I want to be the first conference to pursue that, and I’m very bullish that you’ll see some things this winter, and we’re going to do it through basketball.”
Another change beginning this season is both the men’s and women’s Big 12 tournament will be hosted at the T-Mobile Center.
The women’s tourney would begin the week prior to the men’s, but the schedule will play out so the women’s title game will be played on the same day as the men’s opening round, believed to be a first for any conference.
“I also experienced my first Big 12 men’s and women’s basketball championship this past March, and I was blown away by the fan support and the support this city of Kansas City gives the Big 12 basketball championships,” Yormark said. “The 2023 men’s basketball championship was the highest ticket grossing in conference history, while the women’s championship saw a 20% year-over-year increase in ticket revenue.”
With 16 teams in the Big 12 in 2024, the men’s and women’s conference hoops schedules will look different.
Yormark confirmed Tuesday that the men will move to 20 league games beginning next season, while the women will remain at an 18-game league schedule.
Those decisions were made by a vote from the coaches.
“Ultimately it’s what the coaches were looking to do as far as the 18,” Yormark said. “You’re going to play three schools twice, 12 once, and there will be a bye week. That’s kind of where they settled. The men decided on a 20-game schedule.”
WVU head coach Mark Kellogg said there were different factors in the women coaches deciding to remain at 18 games.
“I think it depends on how you look at it,” he said. “You like 20, because it helps you to schedule less in the non-conference. But, playing 20 also beats you up more throughout the year.
“I’ve been OK with 18. Twenty seems like a lot. That’s a grind, especially in the Big 12. We had one coach who wanted 16, but I didn’t think 20 was all that great for us.”
Since WVU joined the Big 12 in 2012, the league has played a round-robin schedule in hoops, with each school playing the others twice.
That changes this season with the additions of BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston.
As Kellogg pointed out, the loss of the round-robin could make a difference in tournament seeding.
“Either way, you don’t get a balanced schedule and that’s what becomes difficult for me,” he said. “None of it is fair. Is the regular-season champion even a true champion when you don’t play everybody twice? I don’t know, I guess it would depend year to year.”
Big 12 tested
Having spent the last eight years coaching at Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Texas, Kellogg is already familiar with the Big 12’s footprint.
He’ll just get his first full taste of it this season.
“I think we’re going to get a little bit of everything in this league,” Kellogg said. “I don’t know all of the teams, but I think we’ve played at least half of them. I think I have a pretty good idea.”
At SFA, Kellogg went 1-6 against current Big 12 members, with a win against Houston in 2021. He also coached against Oklahoma, UCF, Kansas State, Texas Tech and TCU.