Kevin Warren’s press conference at Big Ten Media Days, which started with a 26-minute speech before any questions were taken from the media, nearly ended without him being asked if he would change any of the decisions he made last year.
Finally, with the last question of the press conference, Warren was asked if he had any regrets about how the Big Ten handled the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 football season.
The answer wasn’t the one that many Big Ten football fans probably wanted to hear.
“I don’t have any regrets,” Warren said Thursday. “Quite naturally, we all look back on our lives and other things that we wish we would have maybe done a little bit differently. But if I had the chance to do it all over last year, I would make the same decisions that we made.
“Maybe the communication wasn’t as clean or as perfect as it could have been at times, and I think you’ve seen improvement with that … But all in all, as I look back, last year was a year of gratitude. It was a very, very complicated time in our lives … when you add it all up, I think the biggest thing that I learned was the importance of being grateful and also having a sense of grace, not only with ourselves but with others.”
Earlier in the press conference, Warren acknowledged that 2020 – when the Big Ten initially canceled its fall football season in August, then reversed course in September and started the season in late October, more than a month later than the ACC, Big 12 and SEC – was “not a perfect time for us in the conference.”
That could be called a significant understatement, as the conference’s decision to shut down the season was met with intense backlash from fans, coaches, players and parents – many of whom also criticized Warren for a lack of communication about the conference’s decision. Yet Warren put a positive spin on how the year unfolded by saying it was “one of the best years of my life” and that it taught him how to be a better leader.
“This was a very complicated and complex time in our nation, in our world and in college athletics. It was complicated for all of us,” Warren said. “This was not a perfect time for us in the conference, but it was productive. We learned – I know I personally learned – many important lessons, and I feel that we grew stronger together as a conference.”
“If I had the chance to do it all over last year, I would make the same decisions that we made.”– Kevin Warren on the 2020 football season
Warren said many people have asked him what he learned last year, and “one of the things I learned is the importance of people, the importance of relationships, and what makes college football special is our people and our relationships.”
“I can tell you right now that I’m a stronger person,” Warren said. “And I am grateful that I had the opportunity to go through what we did last year. And I’m also grateful that I had the belief system to hold true to my values and my promise to keep our student-athletes and their health and safety and wellness No. 1, which I believe that we did. So last year, as I look back over my life, last year will be the one of the years that I’ll look to that I continually grew as a person and that I’m grateful for to go through all the things that we went through.
“So I’m one of those people that always looks for the positives. But for last year, I wouldn’t have had the number of our meetings that I had with our athletic directors and our coaches and our chancellors and presidents and our fans. And so what it did, it allowed me to really understand the importance of relationships, the importance of communication but also to have gratitude for life and so I’m grateful for last year, I embrace it and I’m glad to be here today.”