The Allstate 12 Conference? Why Brett Yormark and the Big 12 Are Leading the Private Equity Arms Race in College Football

    The Pac-12 is no more, and the Big 12 could be following shortly -- but not for the same reasons. Naming rights and private equity deals are coming.

    Due to the House vs. NCAA settlement, schools will lose out on $20-25 million each year. Money makes the college football world go round, so it’s no surprise that conferences and their member programs are exploring ways to mitigate the damage. Welcome to the new age of private equity deals and new naming rights — Big 12? Nah, Allstate 12.

    Big 12 Exploring Private Equity and Naming Rights Deals

    According to CBS Sports, the Big 12 had talks with CVC Capital Partners, a global private equity powerhouse that manages over $200 billion in investments, to provide a “cash infusion of $800 million to $1 billion for a 15% to 20% stake in the league.”

    A portion of the cash infusion would go directly to the 16 teams in the conference. Additionally, the Big 12 would have access to CVC’s investment services and clients.

    On paper, that’s one heck of a deal for a conference in need of money. But that’s not the only deal the league is entertaining. The Athletic confirmed reports that the Big 12 is also considering selling its naming rights to a title sponsor, with Allstate being the frontrunner. The result if the deal went through? The Allstate 12 Conference — a first-of-its-kind venture in college sports.

    Either of these moves shouldn’t be all that surprising, as Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark spoke about the league’s emphasis on maximizing revenue in the post-House vs. NCAA era this spring.

    “Value creation is the (league’s) No. 1 initiative and priority. In some respects, (interest from) private equity is a validation of where this industry is going and the growth trajectory. So I don’t look at it as a bad thing.”

    Outside of simply making more money to make up for the settlement fallout, the Big 12 also wants to stay in the ring with the SEC and Big Ten. The Washington Post received a text from a Big 12 official on Thursday saying, “This is entirely driven by the goal of closing the gap between the Big 12 and B10/SEC and staying competitive. In today’s landscape, this might be what it takes.”

    The conference extended its TV contract with FOX and ESPN in 2022, carrying it through 2031. The deal is worth roughly $2.3 billion and should result in a $32 million average annual payout per school beginning in the 2025 season. While that amount is on par with the ACC’s TV deal, it is far behind the SEC and Big Ten.

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    In 2024, the Big 12 distributed a record $470 million to its 14 members ($36 million per), thanks to additional revenue from the College Football Playoff, NCAA Tournament, bowl games, and league championship events. Yet, the per-school distributions were lower than in 2023, before the conference brought in BYU, Cincinnati, UCF, and Houston.

    Beginning this year, top programs Oklahoma and Texas are leaving for the SEC, which the Big 12 hopes to make up for with the additions of Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah. While those schools have their own inherent value, they also further split the total pie.

    To further contextualize all the numbers thrown out thus far, consider the Big 12’s per-school distribution number of $36 million to the other Power Four conferences last season.

    • Big Ten: $60 million
    • SEC: $51 million
    • ACC: $44.8 million

    When viewed from this lens, it’s clear the Big 12 isn’t exactly safe from becoming the next Pac-12. However, the league isn’t the only one looking toward the future.

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    Per Yahoo’s Ross Dellenger, the Conference USA is in talks with Globe Life, a Texas-based insurance company, for a multimillion-dollar annual naming rights deal. Once the first contract of its kind is signed — both for private equity and naming rights — expect every other conference to follow suit.

    There’s a quote that goes, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” In the case of the current college football landscape, it’s “grow now or die trying.”

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