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Kevin Warren To Become Big Ten Commissioner And First Black Power 5 Commissioner

The current Vikings’ COO continues to blaze trails in sports.

Kevin Warren has quietly been one of the top African American executives in the NFL over the last few years.

He’s been in the league for over 20 years, working with teams such as he Detroit Lions and the St. Louis Rams, before settling in with the Vikings 14 years ago. In 2015, he was promoted to COO of the Vikings, becoming, according to ESPN, the highest-ranking Black executive on the business side of an NFL franchise. Prior to his promotion, he was the team’s chief administrative officer and executive vice president of legal affairs.

After being a part of the franchise’s growth, their efforts to build a new stadium and secure Super Bowl LII, Warren is about to make history as the new commissioner of the Big Ten Conference.

Per ESPN:

“Minnesota Vikings chief operating officer Kevin Warren is expected to be introduced Tuesday as the next commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, sources confirmed to ESPN.

Warren has informed the Vikings he is planning to take the job, and he was in Chicago on Monday, ready for Tuesday’s news conference, per sources.

Warren, 55, would become the first black commissioner of a Power 5 conference. He would replace longtime Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who in March announced his plans to retire in 2020 after 30 years with the league.”

So after 21 years in pro football, Kevin Warren will be moving to the collegiate level and making history as the first African American commissioner of a Power 5 conference, one that has enjoyed tremendous success under the leadership of Jim Delany. He will also become the second Black commissioner to be tapped for a commissioner position this year, as former A-10 executive associate commissioner, Keith Gill, was hired in March by the Sun Belt Conference as their commissioner.

The Big 10 has seen success with diversity, as former conference executive, Andrea Williams, became the first African American Woman to lead a DI conference when she was named Commissioner of the Big Sky Conference in 2016. Last July she left the Big Sky to become the COO of the College Football Playoff. 

Warren will take over for Jim Delany, who helped develop the conference into a major powerhouse. Under his leadership, which he started in 1989, the conference flourished, eventually expanding to 14 members with the addition of Penn State (1990), Nebraska (2011), Maryland (2014) and Rutgers (2014). He also helped launch the Big Ten Network in 2007, the first TV network in the Power 5 conferences, and helped the Big 10 generate over $750 million in revenue in 2018.

The Tempe, Arizona native has a family history steeped in success. His late father, Dr. Morrison Warren Sr., played football professionally for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the late 1940s and went on to become the first Black president of a major college football bowl game in 1982 when he named as the president of the Fiesta Bowl board of directors. Kevin’s oldest brother, Morrison Warren Jr., earned a football scholarship to play at Stanford in the early 1960s, becoming one of the first Black players to do so.

Kevin Warren played basketball and earned his BA in business administration at Penn and Grand Canyon University. After graduating in 1986, he went on to earn to MBA from Arizona State and a JD from Notre Dame School of Law.

While in law school, he founded Kevin Warren and Associates, representing athletes and entertainers such as NFL players Chris Zorich, Will Shields and Lake Dawson. He also worked in a law firm which worked with universities charged with NCAA violations.

He was the Rams’ VP of player programs and legal counsel from the Rams from 1997 – 2001 and then moved to Detroit to become the Lions’ SVP of business operations and general counsel from 2001 – 2003. In 2013, he was named a member of the NFL Committee on Workplace Diversity, and he championed that cause by helping propel the careers of women in sports.

Now he will have the opportunity to continue that mission, and his success, at the collegiate level at the Big 10.

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