Monday, March 4, 2024

Big 12 athletics league is coming to Mexico this year

The Big 12 Conference is coming to Mexico at the end of 2024, the United States college athletics league has announced.

The groundbreaking initiative “Big 12 Mexico” will bring basketball, women’s soccer and baseball games to Mexico City — and perhaps a football bowl game to Monterrey’s BBVA Stadium in late 2026.

College-level basketball, soccer and baseball are branching out into the Mexican market. (stories.uh.edu)

“Mexico is a natural extension to the Big 12 footprint, and I’m thrilled to introduce Big 12 Mexico as the conference’s first-ever international presence,” Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said in a statement. “Through Big 12 Mexico, our student-athletes will have the opportunity to compete in an international setting, and our conference will have the chance to showcase our brand across Mexico.”

The Big 12 is a college athletics league that currently includes 14 U.S. universities, including University of Oklahoma, University of Texas at Austin, Baylor University, University of Kansas, West Virginia University, University of Central Florida and Brigham Young University (BYU).

Though flagship schools Oklahoma and Texas are leaving on July 1 to join the Southeast Conference, four new schools are set to join the Big 12. The addition of University of Arizona, Arizona State University, University of Colorado Boulder and Utah will give the conference a total of 16 teams in 2024.

“We have an appetite to be a national conference in our makeup from coast to coast,” Yormark said last spring.

The first games in Mexico will be regular-season men’s and women’s basketball games between University of Kansas and University of Houston at Mexico City Arena, which hosted a regular-season NBA game in November 2023 that drew 19,986 fans.

Beyond basketball, there will also be exhibition games featuring to-be-announced Big 12 baseball and women’s soccer teams playing against Mexican squads, conference officials said.

In addition, a college football bowl game in Monterrey is being explored for after the 2026 season. Big 12 officials said they want to hold it at the picturesque BBVA Stadium, a 53,500-seat facility next to a mountain that’s nicknamed “El Gigante de Acero” (The Steel Giant).

Big 12 officials have noted that a college bowl game in Monterrey would be the first bowl game ever held in Mexico, although a football game called the Aztec Bowl has been played intermittently in Mexico since 1947 and sometimes has involved a team of American all-stars from lower-level colleges.

The Aztec Bowl has been contested between Mexican teams and lower-level U.S. colleges over the years. (Aztec Bowl/Facebook)

The Big 12 said that it has partnered with Zignia, a Mexico City–based live entertainment agency, on its “Big 12 Mexico” venture. The conference also noted that the venture will be promoted through channels such as ESPN Deportes, ESPN Mexico and Fox Deportes.

Also, in an effort to grow its Latin American audience, Big 12 officials said they are seeking to secure Spanish-language radio broadcasts for its football and basketball title games starting this year.

Five current or future Big 12 campuses – Baylor University, University of Houston, Texas Christian University (TCU), University of Texas and Texas Tech University – are located within 400 miles of Mexico. University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have campus extensions in Mexico.

Mexico City has hosted MLB, NBA and NFL games, and is home to the Mexico City Capitanes, who play in the G League, a U.S.-based development league run by the NBA.

With reports from CBS Sports, ESPN and Big 12 Sports

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