TurnkeyZRG Recruits Commissioner for the Big 12

July 6, 2022 – TurnkeyZRG has assisted in the recruitment of Brett Yormark as the fifth commissioner of the Big 12 Conference. Mr. Yormark’s official start date with the Irving, TX-based college athletic conference is expected to be August 1. His initial contract term is five years. As announced in April, current commissioner Bob Bowlsby will transition to a new interim role, subject to the mutual agreement of the new commissioner and Mr. Bowlsby.

Mr. Yormark joins the Big 12 from Roc Nation, the entertainment company founded by rapper/mogul Jay-Z, where he served as chief operating officer and co-CEO of Roc Nation Unified, the commercial side of the business.

“In Brett Yormark, we have chosen a highly adaptable leader who thrives in dynamic times,” said Lawrence Schovanec, Big 12 Conference board chair and president of Texas Tech University. “The landscape of college athletics is evolving to look more like the world Brett has been leading. 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.”

“I want to thank my fellow board members and our partners at TurnkeyZRG,” said Dr. Schovanec. “Turnkey is more than just a search firm; they orchestrated a flawless strategy and process, delivering strong interest and strong candidates from college and professional sports, as well as the media and entertainment industries.”

Shining a Light

In conducting the assignment, TurnkeyZRG partnered with the Big 12 Conference’s executive committee, which includes Dr. Schovanec, Baylor president Linda A. Livingstone, and Kansas chancellor Douglas A. Girod.

“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,” said Mr. Yormark. “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.”

Mr. Yormark, a graduate of Indiana University, began his sports career in 1988, working in the ticket office for the New Jersey Nets and ultimately being named CEO of the organization. From 2005 to 2019, as CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, he oversaw the team’s move from New Jersey to Brooklyn, building the first new arena in New York City in 60 years and re-launching the Nets organization and brand in Brooklyn.

Prior to joining the Nets, Mr. Yormark served as vice president of corporate sponsorships for NASCAR, where he oversaw a $750 million partnership agreement, the largest in history at that time, that gave Nextel Communications the naming rights to its premier racing series.

The current Big 12 membership includes Baylor University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, Texas Christian University, Texas Tech University, University of Kansas, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas, and West Virginia University.

Related: NCAA Selects TurnkeyZRG to Lead President Search

Entering Big 12 membership next summer will be Brigham Young University, University of Central Florida, University of Cincinnati, and University of Houston.

Serving Sports, Media and Entertainment Organizations

Founded in 1996, TurnkeyZRG is a specialized talent recruitment/executive search firm filling C-level, senior-level and mid-management-level positions throughout sports, media, and entertainment. Over the past 25 years, the firm has filled more than 1,400 positions. TurnkeyZRG helps teams, leagues, stadiums, arenas, theaters, college athletic departments, events, sponsors, agencies, media companies, private equity companies and other clients identify, recruit, and hire the best management talent.

TurnkeyZRG Assists the Atlantic Coast Conference in Finding New Commissioner
TurnkeyZRG has assisted the Atlantic Coast Conference in the selection of James J. Phillips, the Combe Family vice president for athletics & recreation at Northwestern University, as its next commissioner.

The ACC conducted a comprehensive, inclusive nationwide search process facilitated by TurnkeyZRG. The firm spoke with stakeholders across the ACC in developing the job description, and assembled a diverse array of candidates across sports, education, business and government. 

“Jim is one of the most talented athletic administrators in the country and uniquely qualified to successfully and seamlessly take over the helm of the ACC,” says ACC Board Chair Kent Syverud (Syracuse University). “Over the course of nearly 13 years, Jim has elevated and cemented Northwestern’s position as an outstanding Power 5 athletics program. Northwestern’s ascension in the world of intercollegiate athletics is a testament to Jim’s vision, leadership and foundational dedication to the success of student athletes. The ACC is fortunate to have someone of Jim’s caliber and integrity lead the conference at this pivotal moment in intercollegiate athletics.”

Len Perna, chairman and CEO of TurnkeyZRG, has 30-plus years of experience in the sports and entertainment industry, with senior-level management experience in sales, event marketing and management, sponsorships, venue feasibility and development, facility operations, licensing, and legal affairs. Since founding Turnkey, Mr. Perna has managed over 1,400 executive searches, according to the firm.

Last month,  the NCAA board of governors announced that it had selected TurnkeyZRG to lead its search for a new president. Mark Emmert will be stepping down from the role and will continue to serve in the role until a new president is chosen and in place or until June 30, 2023.

The NCAA is going through a period of rapid change. Issues like name, image and likeness, pay-for-play, the transfer portal, and many other changes have created a shifting landscape in intercollegiate athletics. The NCAA serves many different members, of all sizes and competition levels, across Division I, Division II, and Division III.

The NCAA was looking for a search firm that could put in the time and dedicate the staffing to an extended “discovery” process to meet and listen to all the different stakeholders across the entire spectrum of intercollegiate athletics. TurnkeyZRG proposed a novel concept of talking to 50 industry leaders outside intercollegiate athletics, from higher education, pro sports, media, tech, and even government relations, to look for perceptions and ideas as to how to best evolve the NCAA and its role.

Related: TurnkeyZRG Retained by Pac-12 Conference to Lead Chief People and Inclusion Officer Search

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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