Brett Yormark ain’t in New York anymore, but he will be in Kansas shortly. And Lubbock and Stillwater and even the Fort. The incoming Big 12 commissioner — an outside-the-box hire having worked for NASCAR, the Brooklyn Nets, and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation — was probably hoping for a stealthy migration south of the Mason-Dixon Line to Big 12 headquarters in Irving. Yormark, announced as commissioner earlier this summer, was set to start with the Big 12 officially on Aug. 1. Any hope of a calm summer of transition was shattered like historic Texas heat records the day after his announcement when news broke that USC and UCLA pulled a Texas and Oklahoma of yesteryear, literally jetting out of the Pac-12 for the Big Ten’s much, much greener pa$tures.
The multimillion-dollar question, of course, is if the college athletics novice will successfully position the Big 12 to remain a power conference with a legitimate chance to play in the College Football Playoff every year. Equally important — not because it should be important but because of how colleges actually operate — is convincing TV networks and streaming entities that the 10 a.m. Tech/Central Florida game is going to be so widely viewed that someone should give the Big 12 millions and millions of dollars.
Victor Boschini is another Big 12 stakeholder who knows something about transitioning from a vastly different American geography and culture to North Texas. He was also mentioned as a qualified but atypical candidate for Big 12 commissioner during the recent search. TCU’s 10th chancellor, Boschini arrived at TCU in 2003. The Gary Patterson era was in its infancy, TCU was in Conference USA, and Amon Carter Stadium desperately needed a facelift if TCU were to be considered a “big time” program.
In what is either a small-world coincidence or college athletics predestination, both Yormark and Boschini were students at Indiana University in the late ’80s, when fiery Bobby Knight was coaching Hoosiers hoops.
Yormark today faces the same question Boschini did in 2003: How do I reimagine my institution to excel in the modern era? They each have a calm, unimposing but sharp demeanor that earns respect through showing it. Yormark oversaw a $750 million sponsorship deal between Nextel and NASCAR and moved the NBA Nets from New Jersey to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Boschini navigated TCU from Conference USA to the Mountain West to a layover in the Big East and finally to the Big 12. He’s also overseen a remodeling or new construction of basically every building at TCU that you’ve heard of. Google “TCU campus” circa 2003 if you don’t believe me.
Boschini once told a TCU class about his time as an undergrad at Mount Union College interning for the president. A lightbulb was out in the office, and Boschini was following the physical plant procedure of filling out a work order on six-layer carbon paper. Observing the profound inefficiency and growing impatient, Boschini’s boss grabbed the custodian closet keys from the receptionist’s desk. He retrieved a lightbulb, stood on a chair, changed the bulb, got down, grabbed the work order, tore it to pieces, and exclaimed, “There! That’s how you change a lightbulb!”
If Brett Yormark can successfully wade through the muck that is university administrative red tape, modernize the conference, and keep the TV eyeballs and dollars coming, he’ll be remembered as a transformative commissioner. If Yormark needs some advice along the way, Boschini’s office is just a 40-minute drive from Irving.