4 min read

Viva México

Viva México

A few weeks ago we discussed the Brett Yormark saying via podcast that he wanted to look at Big 12 Mexico, and it looks like it's going to happen:

The reports say that basketball games will be played in Mexico City (at 7,300 feet, it's higher up than Laramie which is the highest elevated D1 school - New Mexico is #2 at 5,300 feet) and football games in Monterrey which has a fantastic facility in Estadio BBVA which opened in 2015 and will be a host site for the 2026 FIFA World Cup:

Sign. Me. Up.

But Why?

Brett Yormark's fiduciary responsibility as the commissioner of the Big 12 Conference is to generate as much revenue as possible for its member institutions. He was brought in to zig when everybody else zags and try to be as creative as possible it generating marginal revenue increases.

  1. He got the TV deal ahead of schedule - imagine if he had not had the foresight to push for that and we would be in the same spot the Pac is in currently. Woof.
  2. Trying to make the conference basketball tournament a full lifestyle event with new food, premium seating, concerts from DJ Diesel, etc.
  3. An upcoming "Big 12 Concert Tour" whatever that means.  Details beyond the description have not be leaked or released, but should come soon. I imagine it's trying to package campus arenas and stadiums together as an offering to music managers to leverage them more than the handful of events a year they host.
  4. The basketball event at Rucker Park this summer
  5. Sell off basketball rights separately
  6. Mexico.

It's no secret that Yormark badly wants to add the University of Arizona to the league, and potentially Arizona State as well. Both of those schools are classified as "Hispanic Serving Institutions" - a designation giving to colleges and universities whose undergraduate popuplation is at least 25% hispanic. Being just 70 miles north of the border, Arizona especially has a strong institutional identity and many initiatives related to working in Mexico: https://mexico.arizona.edu/

That is in addition to Texas Tech, Houston and UCF which also carry the HSI designation and are members of the league. Oh - and last week the San Diego State AD told the Athletic "We're either going to the Pac-12 or Big 12. One of them is happening". Adding them with the Arizonas would put 6 HSIs in the league.

Back in March, I went to the USA vs Mexico drubbing in the World Baseball Classic - and it was a home game for Mexico. The crowd was probably 70/30 Mexico fans. The cultural identity of Mexican Americans is very strong and putting an emphasis on reaching that demographic doesn't just make a fun trip for the athletes - it sends a message that the Big 12 sees you and values you - wherever you are in the diaspora.

Will it Make a Difference?

There's a reason that one survey found that over 50% of NFL fans in Mexico claim the Cowboys as their favorite team: they've made a concerted effort to be there and recently announced an entire initiative to be "Mexico's Team" in addition to "America's Team".

This isn't going to magically drive enrollment from international students...but it could some. Right now sports in Mexico are broadcast at the behest of the broadcaster that is getting haphazard events for pennies on the dollar. It's an afterhtought.

ESPN Deportes is a channel in the US but also has an office in CDMX and broadcast internationally there. They will carry big primetime games, but it's not a standard event.

Doing these events is step one, I imagine, of Yormark's plan. You can make more money in 2 ways:

  1. Expand your current share of the market
  2. Expand the size of the market, picking up the new territory.

Fighting against the Big Ten and SEC for the midwest and South isn't goign to yield much and the TV slots are filled to the brim. But Mexico? That's wide open.

Can the Big 12 potentially get ESPN to start prioritizing the broadcast of games in Mexico? Or sublicense games to other Mexican broadcasters?

Can Telemundo or Unvision do a Spanish simulcast of games where ESPN or Fox aren't offering bilingual commentary?

My prediction of the end goal of this initiative: In the next TV deal - not only will the basketball rights be marketed separately in hopes of increasing that revenue, but the Spanish broadcast rights will be marketed separately as well (at least at a Tier 2/3 level with ESPN still retaining the opportunity to do Spanish broadcasts in the ESPN app like they currently do) in the US and annoucning an international broadcast deal in Mexico.

Worth the Squeeze

While splitting this out may only result in a 10% increase in TV revenue - if it can do that, that is a huge win and worth the time of the league office.

Yormark wrapped up a TV deal for the next 6 years in his first 2 months on the job. Nothing is going to change that that is going to be ~65% of the the league revenue until 2030. He isn't going to sit around and twiddle his thumbs - if a few flights and meetings can result in 2-3mm a year per school then that is a massive, massive win relative tot he day to day of running a conference.

And despite what your idiot Ute fan coworker is saying they saw some BYU fan say that this will make us as much money sa the Big Ten or SEC make (nobody ever said that and they never saw somebody say that), this will help increase the bottom line. And your idiot coworker should be worrying more about not ending up being broadcast on Cartoon Network or Comedy Central.

"Travel! The Athletes!"

Monterrey is a 5 hour drive from San Antonio, about a 1 hour flight.

From SLC it's 5 hours if you fly commercial because there's no direct flight, but teams charter. From Phoenix it's 2 hours direct and 3 hours to Mexico City.

The Big Ten has bigger travel annoyances with sending people to LA once a year than the Big 12 sending schools to Mexico. Look at a map.