Iowa State Cyclones guard/forward Ashley Joens (24) reacts after making a three-point shot against Georgia during the first quarter in the NCAA women’s basketball second-round at Hilton Coliseum Sunday, March 20, 2022, in Ames, Iowa.
Brett Yormark is set on making his conference different.
The new Big 12 commissioner has been very outspoken about his new ideas for the league, how he wants to take the league national, make it an international product and use marketing to make it the coolest and hippest league in the country.
I’ve got another idea for how the Big 12 can solidify itself as different from the other leagues.
The Big 12 needs to lean heavily into its best basketball league in the country status — and I’m not talking about the deep and talented men’s basketball league.
I’m talking about women’s basketball.
“I think it’s critically important,” Yormark said on Tuesday when asked about amplifying women’s sports during the league’s women’s basketball media day. “When we’re sitting down with ESPN and Fox, we’re making it known that we want to amplify and elevate women’s sports in every way possible. I’m dedicated to it truly committed.”
What exactly does that mean? That is to be determined to an extent.
Yormark discussed the possibility of playing women’s basketball games in primetime on one of its media rights partners’ marquee networks.
Why couldn’t the 2022-23 Big 12 favorites Iowa State take on a highly-ranked Texas team on ESPN’s Big Monday during the winter?
It very well could once the league has its new television rights deal done, which CBS’s Dennis Dodd reported on Wednesday could be coming sooner rather than later.
Putting women’s basketball in positions like that, where it can get more eyeballs than it ever has, is the kind of thing that can make the Big 12 different as we look toward the long haul of college athletics.
The Big 12 needs to market the crap out of two of its best products — men’s and women’s basketball — and then they need to push those two sports at the same level other leagues do football.
Why doesn’t women’s basketball have a bigger following already?
How do we get women’s basketball an even bigger following?
“We want everyone on an even playing field to the best possible way we can,” Yormark said. “At a conference level, driven by myself and many others, we’re committed to it.”
How do we know heavy marketing can go a long way toward expanding the audience for women’s basketball?
We just watched it happen.
The WNBA just finished delivering its most-watched regular season in 14 years. The league’s postseason saw viewership increase by 22 percent from where it was last season.
All that came after ESPN and the NBA, the WNBA’s parent league, made a concerted push to bring women’s professional basketball to the center stage.
Here’s another example for you.
The 2022 NCAA women’s basketball tournament saw its highest ratings since 2012. The national championship game peaked with almost six million viewers.
Trust me, that’s a big deal.
Right now, outside of some hypothetical possibilities, the Big 12 doesn’t have a clear-cut plan on how they will boost interest in women’s basketball or any of their women’s or Olympics sports.
“I don’t have a definitive plan right now,” Yormark said. “But, obviously, in the context of our conversations with ESPN and Fox, we have discussed it on a go-forward basis.”
We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about football around here. Perhaps even too much time.
It’s time for the Big 12 to think outside the box.
It’s time for the Big 12 to lean heavily into one of its most under-appreciated and highly productive sports.
The Big 12 should lean heavily into women’s basketball.
“It’s critically important for us to elevate the women’s game,” Yormark said. “I think it’s important for our media partners. I think it’d be a great beginning.”