2022 Big 12 Media Days schedule, takeaways: Officials push unified front, Mike Gundy candid about expansion
With conference realignment dominating the offseason, the Big 12 is putting forward a strong message
The 2022 Big 12 season got underway on Wednesday as Media Days began its first of two days at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Leading off the festivities was incoming conference commissioner Brett Yormark, whose background in branding and marketing at Jay-Z's Roc Nation helpedin the future amid realignment and upcoming media rights deals.
In terms of the teams featured, Baylor coach Dave Aranda and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy ranked among the top draws on the first day. Five different teams earned first-place votes in the preseason Big 12 media poll, with the Cowboys and Bears representing that group as the event opened.
With the first day of Big 12 Media Days in the book, let's look at the biggest storylines from Arlington.
The Big 12 pushes unified front
Talking to those around the Big 12, many believe that the league is more united than it was last year. After Texas and Oklahoma announced they were leaving for the SEC, the Big 12 was active to quickly add four quality brands in BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF.
BYU and UCF had representatives in Arlington, while other league officials spoke highly of the quality of league and competition heading forward. While the issue of expansion will be a continuous one over the next few months, the 12 teams that will remain part of the Big 12 heading forward remain committed to the future of the league.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was particularly candid in saying that he believes the Big 12 will expand to 16 teams at some point. Others were less confident. Regardless, everyone believes the conference is negotiating from a position of strength -- especially after USC and UCLA announced their intentions to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten.
"This is a power struggle for long-term television money," Gundy said. "The Big 12 is better off today than it was at this time last year."
Appealing to a new audience
Yormark made his first public appearance during his transitionary period into the job of Big 12 commissioner, replacing the outgoing Bob Bowlsby, and quickly set out his vision for the conference. More than anything, Yormark centered on expanding the branding and marketing opportunities for the conference to best position the league for its upcoming television negotiations.
"I think there's opportunities to become a little bit more national, to position our brand a little younger, hipper, cooler," Yormark said. "How do we connect to a youth culture, diversify some of the things we're doing. I think we have a great opportunity."
It's unclear what kind of value the Big 12 can hope to gain in a world without Texas and Oklahoma, but people on the ground are optimistic about the upside. Three teams in the new Big 12 -- Cincinnati, Baylor and Oklahoma State -- finished in the top 10 last season. Three of the new additions are in the Cincinnati, Houston and Orlando media markets.
Yormark also addressed the potential for multi-platform revenue streams, noting that the 18-24 demographic is not as married to traditional media. However, it remains unclear what kind of plans Yormark could have to enter that market.
Baylor is now the hunted
For the first time in program history, Baylor was picked No. 1 in the preseason Big 12 poll. Bears coach Dave Aranda was his usual philosophical self when asked about what that meant for the the program, pointing instead to the nature of imperfection and reality.
"I think it goes back to just the task within a task," Aranda said. "Today, for example, they'll be running and lifting. So are we bringing a life energy to that, or are we running, we're lifting, we're in it, but we're not bringing any energy, we're actually taking away energy? ... I think to be real honest about your motivation and to be real clear about your intention, it's not about necessarily perfection. You have to move with imperfection, continue to move and continue to get better. I think that's the goal for us."
His players were similarly thoughtful, with linebacker Dillon Doyle noting that Aranda has taught him that football is not a zero-sum game, but instead an opportunity for everyone to gain by growing through football. Only Aranda could have found a program with this kind of culture to guide; we'll see how it turns out when live bullets are flying in the fall again.
Gundy remains bullish on Pokes' future
Gundy was asked about his comments from January, when he said that he believed that Oklahoma State could someday become a blue blood-type program after beating Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. Wednesday, Gundy reaffirmed optimism at the future of the Big 12 and how it may impact Oklahoma State long term.
"I'm convinced the Big 12 will be here for a long time," Gundy said. "Who will be in it? I'm not sure. But the brand and what we have at this point moving forward, Oklahoma State will be a very, very marketable program in the future."
The Cowboys were six inches away from potentially reaching the College Football Playoff in 2021 -- in the same AT&T Stadium where media days are being held. Picked third in the preseason poll, the Cowboys hope to take that elusive next step in 2022.
Mike Gundy said that strength and conditioning coach Rob Glass might be the most important member of Oklahoma State football, himself included. Glass signed what is believed to be the first $1 million contract by a strength coach in college football.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy noted that recruiting hasn't changed much for the Cowboys since Texas and Oklahoma announced their moves to the SEC.
"Young people live in certain worlds today. They want to know what you as a university and an athletic department can do for them...the Big 12 is better off today than it was this time last year."
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was complimentary of new Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark, saying he was extremely excited for him to join the conference. Pointed also to Oklahoma State's new president Kayse Shrum and athletic director Chad Weiberg as reasons it's been attractive for him to stay at Oklahoma State so long.