A new era for the Big Ten began on Tuesday morning as the conference introduced Kevin Warren as its next Big Ten Commissioner. This news comes as Jim Delany prepares to enter retirement after leading the league over the last few decades.
Warren’s most recent role was with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, where he served as the team’s Chief Operating Officer. When promoted to the position in 2015, he became the league’s first black chief operating officer. Prior to that role, he was employed at a number of law firms, with an extended practice in representing athletes. He also has an extensive educational history that includes an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a J.D. from Notre Dame.
He had the following to say in a press release:
“I am absolutely honored to become the sixth commissioner of the Big Ten, a conference with such rich history, tradition, and respect,” said Warren. “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.”
And although Warren has a limited history with college athletics, he did serve on the Board of Directors of Grand Canyon and was a member of the Notre Dame Law School Advisory Council. He also assisted in Minnesota’s recent search for a new athletic director.
Generally speaking, there really isn’t a lot to take away with regard to this decision. Despite being a relative outsider to the Big Ten, Warren arrives with an impressive history of success with multiple institutions. That should leave fans feeling confident, but it’s hard to tell what Warren’s tenure will look like since he hasn’t filled this type of role before.
Perhaps the most difficult challenge on Warren’s landscape in the coming years will be how the league addresses the bursting cable bubble. Athletic departments have gotten fat in recent years thanks to enormous TV rights contracts, but there’s a lot of data to indicate those contracts will be drying up in years to come. How Warren addresses that transition will be vital in determining how the Big Ten looks in the decades to come.
Regardless of your thoughts about Delany, there’s no debating the impact he’s had on the Big Ten and college sports in general. His torch will now be passing to a new man and fans will have to wait and see what’s to come.