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Big 12 chooses Brett Yormark to replace Bob Bowlsby as commissioner

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Cincinnati, Houston and UCF reach an agreement with the AAC to join Big 12 (0:48)

Max Olson joins Paul Finebaum to discuss the exit agreement that allows Cincinnati, Houston and UCF join the Big 12. (0:48)

The Big 12 has named Brett Yormark to be its next commissioner, the conference announced Wednesday.

Yormark has served as COO of Jay-Z's Roc Nation since being promoted to the position in January. He was previously co-CEO of Roc Nation Unified, a global licensing division within the agency, along with his brother, Michael.

"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 in a statement. "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 joins the Big 12 on a five-year contract with an expected starting date of Aug. 1, the conference said.

The move marks an out-of-the-box hire for the Big 12 amid the vastly changing collegiate landscape. Yormark has little experience at the college sports level. He did, however, spend nearly 15 years with Barclays Sports and Entertainment, including as CEO, before leaving for Roc Nation in 2019.

"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," Lawrence Schovanec, Texas Tech president and chair of the Big 12 board of directors, said in a statement. "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."

Yormark won't be the only Power 5 commissioner with a background outside of college sports. Before taking over as Pac-12 commissioner, George Kliavkoff had been serving as the president of entertainment and sports for MGM Resorts International since 2018. Speaking before Wednesday's announcement, Kliavkoff declined to comment on reports speculating about the next Big 12 commissioner but said he has known Yormark for "a long time."

"We ran in the same media circles when I was in New York working in media and in sports," Kliavkoff told ESPN's Heather Dinich on Tuesday. "He and I even worked together on some projects when I was at MGM and he was at the Barclays Center. If it turns out that he's the new Big 12 commissioner, I think it'll be really good for college athletics and really good for anyone who believes that we have a unique moment in time to take a fresh look at all of college athletics, and people with different opinions, different voices and different perspectives will add value. I think Brett's one of those guys."

Yormark will replace Bob Bowlsby, who announced in April that he was stepping down as commissioner.

Bowlsby was appointed to the role in 2012, following defections from Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado and Texas A&M to other leagues. He added TCU and West Virginia and was able to maintain the Big 12's role as a Power 5 league, and he reinstated the conference's football title game in 2017.

During Bowlsby's tenure, the Big 12 has won 25 NCAA team national championships, including the past two men's basketball titles by Kansas and Baylor.

But it's also a conference in transition. Last year, Texas and Oklahoma announced they were bolting for the SEC. Bowlsby steadied the league and engineered the additions of BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston, which will join no later than the 2024-25 academic year. Texas and Oklahoma have publicly said they will remain until their Big 12 rights expire in 2025.