Big Ten Names Minnesota Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren As New Commissioner

By Dan Hope on June 4, 2019 at 12:05 pm
Kevin Warren
Minnesota Vikings

The Big Ten has officially named Jim Delany's successor.

Minnesota Vikings chief operating officer Kevin Warren was named as the Big Ten's sixth commissioner in a press conference at the Big Ten's headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois, on Tuesday afternoon.

Warren's hire as the Big Ten's new commissioner was first reported by 670 The Score's Mully and Haugh on Monday night.

“I am absolutely honored to become the sixth commissioner of the Big Ten, a conference with such rich history, tradition, and respect,” Warren said in a statement through the Big Ten. “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.”

Warren has been the Vikings' COO since Feb. 12, 2015, and is the highest-ranking African-American executive working on the business side of an NFL team. He is also an attorney of counsel for the international law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.

He becomes the first African-American commissioner of a Power 5 collegiate conference and the second black commissioner of any Football Bowl Subdivision conference, joining Keith Gill, who was named the new commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference in March.

"It is definitely not lost on me, the history of this," Warren said in his introductory press conference.

Ohio State president Michael Drake, who was a member of the executive search committee that selected Warren as the Big Ten's new commissioner, said in a statement through the Big Ten that “Kevin is the right person at the right time to lead us forward.”

“After an extensive national search that brought forth a wonderful group of highly qualified candidates, we were thrilled to recruit Kevin Warren to be our next commissioner,” Drake said. “We were all impressed with Kevin’s broad experience, his extraordinary level of commitment and his vision for our collective future. My colleagues and I all look forward to working closely with him to support and advance the Big Ten. This is an important moment for our conference and for intercollegiate athletics.”

Warren will begin his new role in a transition period on Sept. 16. Delany, who has been the Big Ten's commissioner since 1989, will officially step down as Big Ten commissioner on January 1, 2020 after announcing his retirement in March.

Warren said his goal is to make what he already considers to be a "phenomenal and fantastic conference" even better, while building upon what Delany has accomplished over the past three decades.

"When you have an iconic leader like Jim Delany, the worst thing you can do is try and tear down what he's built and what his staff have built," Warren said in his press conference.

Warren has spent the last 14 seasons with the Vikings, working his way up the organizational ladder. Before joining the Vikings, he worked with the international law firm Greenberg Traurig, where he represented Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf in their bid to purchase the team. He previously worked for the NFL's Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams.

“Kevin has impacted the Vikings and our family in immeasurable ways over the last 15 years,” Mark and Zygi Wilf said in a statement released by the Vikings. “He has worked tirelessly to elevate the Vikings franchise, all with the greater good of the organization and Minneapolis-St. Paul in mind.

“Kevin has been a tremendous leader for the Vikings, and he and his family have been passionately and intricately involved in the community, enhancing the lives of so many people. We know the Big Ten and their student-athletes, coaches, and administrators are extremely fortunate to have his leadership, character, and vision and we wish Kevin and the Warren family all the best. We will work with Kevin and the Vikings management team over the next three months to help us through this transition and process how we want to move forward.”

Warren started his career in sports law at Bond, Schoeneck & King, where he worked alongside former SEC commissioner Mike Slive to represent universities charged with NCAA violations. He later launched his own sports and entertainment agency, Kevin Warren & Associates, before moving into NFL front-office work.

Warren earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from Grand Canyon University, where he was also a star basketball player, in 1986. He earned his MBA from Arizona State in 1988 and graduated from the Notre Dame Law School in 1990. 

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