Kevin Warren named new Big Ten commissioner


Kevin Warren was named the new commissioner of the Big Ten conference Tuesday. Tribune News Service

Nine candidates were mentioned in an April report from Sports Business Journal to become the new commissioner of the Big Ten conference, but Monday a new name surfaced into the discussion — Kevin Warren.

At noon Tuesday, Warren was named the new commissioner of the Big Ten, replacing Jim Delany.

Delany, 71, has served as commissioner since 1989 and announced in March he would be retiring in 2020.

“To have an opportunity to lead the Big Ten conference and follow in the shoes of Jim Delany is truly an honor,” Warren said in his opening statement at the Big Ten headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois.

IU President Michael A. McRobbie introduced Warren at the press conference and was also chair of the executive search committee.

“Kevin is a visionary leader, an experienced, successful and highly respected executive and a skilled communicator who is uniquely positioned to continue the traditions of excellence that have become synonymous with the Big Ten Conference,” McRobbie said.

Warren played basketball at the University of Pennsylvania and was a member of the Quakers’ 1981-82 Ivy League championship team before transferring to Grand Canyon University. Warren earned his MBA from Arizona State University and law degree from the University of Notre Dame.

Warren, 55, is the chief operating officer of the Minnesota Vikings and is the highest-ranking black executive working on the business side for an NFL team.

“He has worked tirelessly to elevate the Vikings franchise, all with the greater good of the organization," Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wolf released in a statement. "We know the Big Ten and their student-athletes, coaches and administrators are extremely fortunate to have his leadership, character and vision."

Warren will be the sixth Big Ten commissioner and the first black commissioner of a Power-5 conference.

“It is definitely not lost on me of the history associated with this,” Warren said at the press conference.

He then listed photographs he has in his office of black pioneers such as Curt Flood, Jackie Robinson, the 1966 Texas Western basketball team and Martin Luther King Jr. Warren was also the first black COO for an NFL team.

Warren said it's not only about color and that one of things he will stand for is to make sure somebody's race, color, creed, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation doesn't get in the way of opportunity.

“This will be a place from an inclusive standpoint that we will embrace everyone and give everyone an opportunity to be the best they can be," Warren said.

Warren will assist the Vikings through a three-month transition period and will begin his transition with the Big Ten on Sept. 16 before Delany officially steps down Jan. 1, 2020.

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