Friday March 1st, 2024 10:05AM

Big 12 committed to title game even with CFP expansion and changes in league, Yormark says

By The Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said his still-evolving conference remains committed to having a championship game even as the College Football Playoff expands from four to 12 teams after this season.

“This is a tentpole event. Everything leads up to this moment, it creates a wonderful narrative for this conference. It’s a showcase event, and something I’m committed to,” Yormark said before Saturday's title game. “I know there’s been a lot of discussion amongst the commissioners about what that might look like, but as it relates to the Big 12, we love this game. We love being at AT&T (Stadium). ... It lets the world know who we are and where we’re going.”

Seventh-ranked Texas, the Big 12's last hope to get into the final four-team version of the playoffs, beat No. 19 Oklahoma State 49-21 at the home of NFL's Dallas Cowboys, where it has a contract to play its championship game through 2031.

Texas is leaving along with Oklahoma for the Southeastern Conference next season, when the Big 12 will add departing Pac-12 schools Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah to grow to 16 members. Texas and Oklahoma, the only remaining members that have won national championships, already had revealed their intentions to leave the Big 12 before Yormark became commissioner during the summer of 2022.

“We thank them for getting us where we are today for being pillars in this conference and for creating a great history and legacy and we wish them well,” Yormark said. “I have no emotion about it. ... As I’ve often said, there’s never been a better time than right now to be part of this conference.”

Yormark was in Austin a week ago when the Longhorns won 57-7 over Texas Tech in their final Big 12 regular-season game. Late in that game, video was played in the stadium of Yormark's remarks to a crowd of Texas Tech fans about a week before when he told Red Raiders coach Joey McGuire they “better take care of business” like last year when beating Texas.

Some Longhorns fans booed and chanted at Yormark when he was walking off the field into a tunnel before the Big 12 championship game. The commissioner smiled when he looked up and waved his arms as to encourage and acknowledge them.

“I never look back. I enjoyed my time in Austin,” Yormark said. “One thing I love about the fans in college sports, because as you know, I’ve only been in for 16 months, I love the passion, and they’re showing their passion and I love it.”

The commissioner said he was passionate about the Big 12, and he was rooting for both teams Saturday.

“An incredible season by the Texas Longhorns. You guys with today’s dominating performance deserve a ticket to the CFP for sure,” Yormark said after the game, adding it was an honor to present the trophy to Sarkisian and his team.

The title game for the first time included a Super Bowl-like halftime show featuring a performance by Nelly, with the bands from both schools also taking part. The game broadcast was being streamed live in New York’s Times Square in what the commissioner hopes becomes an annual event.

There is also a collaboration with WWE, including on-field logos and the presentation of a custom-made title belt to the game's most outstanding player to be presented by WWE star The Undertaker. Yormark said the partnership is a differentiator for the Big 12 because of the wrestling organization's 150 million social media followers.

“As many of you know, I come from a bit of a marketing background," said Yormark, who before joining the Big 12 was a CEO for Jay-Z's Roc Nation. “So as much as the game is all about what unfolds on the field, there’s a lot of different things around it.”

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