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Big Ten Names Kevin Warren Sixth Commissioner In Conference History

on June 04, 2019 1:30 PM

The Big Ten announced Tuesday that Kevin Warren has been named the conference's sixth commissioner.

Warren is scheduled to start on September 16, 2019, while current commissioner Jim Delany will officially step down on January 1, 2020 following a 30-year career with the conference. Delany took over the job as conference commissioner in 1989.

Warren is leaving his current role as the Chief Operating Officer for the Minnesota Vikings where he has worked since 2005. He is the highest-ranking African-American executive working on the business side for a team in the NFL and is the first African-American COO in NFL history. 

“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,” said Michael A. McRobbie, president of Indiana University and chair of the executive search committee in a press release.

“Over a remarkable and pioneering career, he has developed a reputation among his peers and colleagues as an individual of enormous character, integrity, knowledge and passion, who has dedicated the majority of his professional career to the empowerment of young people and the positive impact athletics can have on improving lives and our society.” 

Warren also has become the first African-American commissioner of a Power Five conference following Tuesday's announcement, something he touched on Tuesday.

“It is definitely not lost on me, the history associated with this,” Warren said during his introductory press conference. “I have some key pictures on my wall that I look at every single day thanks to my wife. I have a picture of Curt Flood, who was an African American pioneer in baseball and who really stood up for free agency … I have a picture right in front of my desk of Jackie Robinson. I have a picture of Dr. King. I have a picture of the 1966 Texas Western basketball team, the first time five black student athletes won a national title when they beat Kentucky.”

“I am absolutely honored to become the sixth commissioner of the Big Ten, a conference with such rich history, tradition, and respect,” Warren added. “The opportunity is an incredible and unique blend of my lifelong passion, commitment and experience. Positively impacting the lives of young adults has always been part of the fabric of my family and I will work tirelessly with our member schools to ensure that we are providing every possible best in class resource to enhance our students’ educational and athletic experience, as well as empower them for success upon graduation. Jim Delany, our presidents, chancellors, athletic administrators, and coaches have created an extremely strong culture and foundation from which to build. I am very grateful to work alongside Jim as I transition into my role and work to hold true the respected values of the Big Ten, as we propel our conference into the future.”

Diversity looks to a be a key piece of Warren's tenure, something that has been a key principle within his work. In September of 2013, Warren’s was named a member of the NFL Committee on Workplace Diversity which is committed to enhancing and promoting diversity at every level of the NFL.

In February of 2017, during Super Bowl LI week in Houston, Warren was honored with the Texas Southern University Pioneer Award, recognizing Kevin’s ground-breaking role as an NFL executive and his commitment to championing diversity. Warren was also honored as a member of the Sports Business Journal 2019 Champions class.

Warren’s graduated from Notre Dame Law School and lives with his wife, Greta, in the greater Twin Cities area and have two children, daughter, Peri, and son, Powers, a sophomore football player at Mississippi State.

As for any headliners, Warren avoided any strong stances on some of college athletics' largest talking points from player compensation to playoff expansion.

“That’s a big topic I’ve thought about and I’ll say this, at the appropriate time when we can have some time to sit down I would love to share my thoughts with you and talk in the details about it,” Warren said in response to the question of player compensation. “This is a great time in college athletics and there are many issues, that being one of them, that we need to address. There have been committees put into place to address those issues and I’m looking forward to once I’m here full time and can sit down and talk about it, then I can share my personal thoughts in regards to those issues.”

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