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Big 12 media days notebook: Private equity, brand naming rights remain hot topics | CU Buffs


LAS VEGAS — Money is the name of the game in this new era of college athletics.

Name, image and likeness is already here. Direct revenue sharing and player salaries could be on the way.

Every university across the country is bracing for even more change and conferences are feeling the pressure to help deliver for each of its members and all of its student athletes.

It’s why the Big 12 has been at the forefront of the conversation all offseason long with talks about potential private equity investment in the conference.

“We’re exploring all options,” Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark said. “I do believe that given where we are, the industry, having a capital resource as a partner, makes a ton of sense. That’s really how you conduct good business. I really believe that. And if you see where private equity is kind of making a path into professional sports, at some point in time it’s going to come here into intercollegiate athletics.

“We’re exploring what that might look like and a structure and a model of what that looks like is going to be critically important so that we’re not compromising the long-term future of the conference.”

It’s more than just private equity that the Big 12 has gone after in search of investment, the conference has also been exploring the possibility of selling the naming rights to the conference.

“Do I believe in naming rights? I do,” Yormark said. “I’ve done quite a few in my career. I was at NASCAR when we went from (the) Winston Cup to the Nextel Cup. Naming rights aren’t foreign to me.”

It’s easy to see what that could look like. The two-day media days event at Allegiant Stadium is presented by Totino’s — you know, the pizza rolls company. Could we soon see something called ‘The Dr. Pepper Big 12’ or ‘The Big 12 presented by AT&T’?

While Yormark said “nothing is imminent,” he’s certainly open to the idea.

“I see the value in them — if they’re the right naming rights and the right partner,” Yormark said. “We’re gonna explore it and see where we land.”

Oklahoma State RB Ollie Gordon II faces the music

There was one giant elephant in the room that stretched from end zone to end zone Tuesday at Allegiant Stadium: What is going to happen with Oklahoma State’s Ollie Gordon II?

The star running back, who is not yet 21 years old, was arrested this month on suspicion of a DUI, but still made the trip to Las Vegas with the Cowboys contingent to speak on the matter in front of the media for the first time.

Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon II answers questions from the media during the Big 12 NCAA college football media days in Las Vegas, Tuesday, July 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Lucas Peltier) Lucas Peltier

“I apologize for my actions (and) the mistakes I made,” Gordon said. “Every action has a consequence. I just hope that I can get back on a good track and on good terms with (my family and my team).

“For legal reasons, I don’t really want to speak on (what happened) that night, but I have learned from my actions and I know it wasn’t a smart decision.”

After rushing for over 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, Gordon won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back and was recently named preseason offensive player of the year in the Big 12.

His head coach has already said that he won’t be suspended for any games this fall.

“The other thing I shared with Ollie yesterday was, after he decided that he wanted to come to today’s event, that I told him, when this is finished today at 4 o’clock, it’s over for me,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “I’ve already made the decisions that I think what’s best for you and this team, and you need to make the decisions and the comments of what you think is best for yourself and the team. And then after today it’s over with. And that’s what our goal is, and I think we’ll be able to get that accomplished.”

Gundy also said during an interview on ESPNU that what Gordon did was something he “probably (has) done that a thousand times in my life.”

“I looked it up on my phone-, what would be the legal limit… two or three beers, or four,” Gundy said.” I’m not justifying what Ollie did, I’m telling you what decision I made.”

Gundy later clarified his comments on “X,” saying, “My intended point today at Big 12 media days was that we are all guilty of making bad decisions. It was not a reference to something specific.”

Gordon enters the season as a Heisman contender for an Oklahoma State team that made the Big 12 championship game last season and has aspirations to win the conference this time around and earn an automatic bid to the College Football Playoff.

“My teammates, my family, my coaches, the Cowboy culture (and) organization in general, they’ve been beside me, telling me to keep my head up and everything,” Gordon said.

Big 12 partners with Microsoft for on-field tablets this season

Speaking of brand deals, the Big 12 also Tuesday announced a partnership with Microsoft to provide all 16 teams with tablets that can be used on the sidelines and in the coaching booths during games this fall — a new rule that also includes the introduction of in-helmet communication.

It’s one of the more underrated storylines from an offseason full of headlines in college football.

“It’s like cheating,” Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham said. “You don’t have to see the game live. You don’t have to adapt. I think really what it does is it’s going to create bigger game plans because before you may be able to get away with something that somebody didn’t see. You’re almost going to have to carry, in my opinion, a larger game plan in order to change when teams change because they literally get to watch live video of you.”

Arizona State head coach Kenny Dillingham answers questions from the media during the Big 12 NCAA college football media days in Las Vegas, Tuesday, July 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Lucas Peltier) Lucas Peltier

While the additions of tablets on the sidelines will no doubt provide an added boost, there’s some doubt as to whether or not the communication from the sideline will change with the new, in-helmet listening devices.

While it was tested during bowl season with three defensive players having communication devices in their helmets, it will officially just be one player on each side of the ball this season.

It may not be the instant fix the sport was looking for after Michigan’s sign-stealing scandal from last season.

“You could’ve fixed it and they chose to take the easy way out and do the NFL model,” Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire said. “Guess what? We don’t huddle. How’s that fixing anything? You’re still going to signal (on defense).”

McGuire made it clear that communicating to three players on defense is a way to get play calls in, even against the many up-tempo offenses in college that don’t huddle. But with just one player having the communication device, use signals to call plays on defense will likely remain.

“We’re gonna try to go faster,” McGuire said.

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