The college sports industry is changing by the day, and so the job of a college sports commissioner is, too. As the job changes, the profile of who can best perform in that role changes with it. The Big 12's search committee spent the past two days interviewing three finalists to be its next commissioner, none of whom work in the sports industry. And now they are set to choose their next leader.
According to Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger and Pat Forde, Roc Nation COO Brett Yormark is expected to succeed Bob Bowlsby as the next Big 12 commissioner.
Yormark has spent the past three years at Roc Nation, founded in 2008 by Jay Z as a hip hop label. The company has since grown to become, in its own words, "world’s preeminent entertainment company," with clientele ranging from Alicia Keys, to CNN analyst Van Jones, to Atlanta Falcons first round pick Drake London.
As a Roc Nation executive, Yormark's job was to work with "artists, athletes, leagues, teams and brands and oversees sponsorship, licensing, content partnerships and brand strategy," per Dellenger and Forde.
That sounded like music (recorded by a Roc Nation artist, of course) to the ears of the Big 12's board of directors. Yormark's job will be to manage the onboarding of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF; the exits of Oklahoma and Texas; develop a cohesive NIL strategy for everything from Kansas basketball to Iowa State softball; position the Big 12 within the upcoming College Football Playoff expansion; represent the Big 12 in the ongoing dissolution of the NCAA's power structure; and negotiate a favorable media rights contract after the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 have already signed their deals.
With Yormark now identified, four of the Power 5 commissionerships have changed hands within the past three years, and three came from outside college athletics. The Big Ten hired Minnesota Vikings COO Kevin Warren in 2019, the ACC hired Northwestern AD Jim Phillips last year and, in a move most parallel to the Big 12's, the Pac-12 hired MGM Resorts sports and entertainment executive George Kliavkoff last year. (TurnkeyZRG handled the Pac-12 and Big 12 searches.)
Yormark's successor was perhaps the ultimate college sports insider. Bob Bowlsby entered college athletics after graduate school as the assistant AD for facilities at Northern Iowa, worked his way up to AD there, and then went on to lead the athletics departments at Iowa and Stanford before taking over the Big 12 in 2012.
Unlike Kliavkoff, Yormark does have prior experience in sports. Prior to Roc Nation, he spent nearly a decade and a half as the CEO of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, the entity that runs Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets. There, he helped bring the ACC Tournament and select college basketball games to Brooklyn. Yormark made his name in the sports industry as a young executive at NASCAR.
It remains to be seen when Yormark will assume the Big 12 commissionership, assuming the hire goes through, but a logical time to introduce him would be the Big 12 football media days, July 13-14 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.