ROSEMONT, Illinois – The Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) announced Tuesday that Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren has been named the sixth commissioner of the Big Ten Conference. He will start on Sept. 16, 2019, to take full advantage of an opportunity to transition alongside Commissioner Jim Delany, who will officially step down on Jan. 1, 2020, following a 30-year career with the conference.
Warren has been with the Vikings since 2005 and was promoted to COO on Feb. 12, 2015. 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.
Vikings Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf released the following statement:
"Kevin has impacted the Vikings and our family in immeasurable ways over the last 15 years. He has worked tirelessly to elevate the Vikings franchise, all with the greater good of the organization and Minneapolis-St. Paul in mind. From the very onset, Kevin helped us navigate and execute the purchase of the franchise. He then evolved as a leader of the organization in ways we never could have imagined, leading our vision for U.S. Bank Stadium and TCO Performance Center, developing a world-class fan experience, and implementing many initiatives that have transformed our franchise with the benefit of our employees and Vikings fans top of 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."– Mark & Zygi Wilf
The following is from the Big Ten's official press release:
"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. "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."
"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," said Michael V. Drake, president of The Ohio State University and a member of the executive search committee. "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. Kevin is the right person at the right time to lead us forward."
Warren's extensive experience in all facets of the Minnesota Vikings organization created the perfect foundation for him to lead the business operations. Since being promoted to COO, Warren played a critical role in all business, financial, legal and operational aspects related to U.S. Bank Stadium and was involved in the design, construction, business, legal and operational components of the new stadium. Warren also played a key role in the design, development and planning of Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, the Vikings headquarters in Eagan, in addition to the ancillary real estate development of Viking Lakes. Under Warren's visionary leadership, the Vikings restructured the organization, with an emphasis on broadening the executive team and promoting women to key executive positions.
"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."
Now in his 21st NFL season and 15th with the Vikings in 2019, Warren directed the team's focus on creating departmental synergy and collaboration; increasing financial profitability for the franchise; improving communication; developing leadership initiatives; implementing a platform focusing on a positive community impact through the new Minnesota Vikings Foundation; launching a women's initiative program, creating an elevated fan experience; and building a world-class franchise focused on the tenets of hard work, ethics, financial profitability, community service and a "best-in-class" mentality.
In September of 2013, Warren's reputation and NFL experience were recognized when he was named a member of the NFL Committee on Workplace Diversity (which he continues to serve), which is committed to enhancing and promoting diversity at every level of the NFL. In February of 2017, during Super Bowl LI festivities 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.
Prior to joining the Vikings, Warren worked for the international law firm of Greenberg Traurig from 2003-05, playing a critical leadership role with the Wilf Ownership Group deal team during the acquisition of the Minnesota Vikings. Additionally, he spent two seasons (2001-03) with the Detroit Lions as Senior Vice President of Business Operations & General Counsel and four seasons (1997-2001) with the St. Louis Rams as Vice President of Football Administration, and Vice President of Player Programs and Legal Counsel. Warren was an integral part of the Rams organization when they won Super Bowl XXXIV over the Tennessee Titans in January of 2000.
Warren's first exposure to sports law came after he graduated from Notre Dame Law School. He worked at a law firm with Mike Slive and Mike Glazier specializing in representation of universities charged with NCAA violations. He also later worked as a sports and entertainment attorney/agent representing various professional athletes, entertainers and broadcasters as the founder of Kevin Warren and Associates.
As a freshman on the University of Pennsylvania basketball team, Warren was a member of the Quakers' Ivy League championship team in 1982. A native of Tempe, Arizona, he completed his college education at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, earning his undergraduate degree. While at Grand Canyon, he excelled both in the classroom and on the basketball court. Warren scored 1,118 points during his career at Grand Canyon and earned GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-America honors as a senior along with NAIA Academic All-America honors and NAIA District 7 Basketball Team honors as both a junior and senior. In March 2012, Warren was inducted into the GCU Athletics Hall of Fame, the 16th individual inducted and only the fifth basketball player to earn the prestigious honor in the university's history.
Warren earned his Bachelor's in Business Administration from GCU in 1986, his MBA from Arizona State University in 1988, and his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Notre Dame School of Law in 1990. Warren is a licensed attorney with the State Bar of Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota (House Counsel-Rule 10), and the District of Columbia.
Several members of Warren's family have helped fuel his life-long passion for academics and sports, including his father, the late Dr. Morrison Warren, Sr., who had a successful career at Arizona State University as a Professor of Education and who played professional football for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948 during the era of the All-American Football Conference. The senior Warren would go on to be the first African-American President of a major college bowl game when he was named President of the 1982 Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors and was named one of Arizona State University's 50 Greatest Football Players. Warren's mother served the community as an elementary school librarian. His oldest brother, Morrison, Jr., was one of the first African-American scholarship athletes at Stanford, playing football for the Cardinal in the early 1960s, before a knee injury cut short his promising athletic career.
Philanthropy is an integral part of Warren's life, and he and his wife, Greta, are active members of the Minneapolis-St. Paul community. In 2012, The Warren family "adopted" Lucy Craft Laney Community School in Minneapolis, which is predominantly African-American and has 98% of its student population coming from under-served communities. The Warrens have donated more than 5,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to Lucy Laney and other Twin Cities elementary schools. The Warren family has also purchased athletic uniforms for the boys and girls basketball teams, school uniforms and donate their time mentoring students.
In 2014, the Warrens created Carolyn's Comforts in conjunction with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital and are donating $1 million to a pediatric emergency care fund, to honor the legacy of his sister Carolyn Elaine Warren-Knox who passed away of brain cancer. Since the inception, more than 500 financial grants have been made to families in need.
In 2017, the Warren's launched "No Doors Closed," a scholarship program selecting high school students from District 191, who will be first generation college students. Each student was awarded with a four-year, $5,000-per-year academic scholarship to attend the institution of their choice. Kevin and Greta plan to continue awarding four scholarships annually until a total of 16 students are in the program on a perpetual basis. In 2019, 12 students will be attending college.
Warren and his wife, Greta, currently reside in the greater Twin Cities area and have two children, daughter, Peri, who recently graduated Cum Laude from Occidental College and son, Powers, a sophomore football student-athlete at Mississippi State.
About the Big Ten Conference
The Big Ten Conference is an association of world-class universities whose member institutions share a common mission of research, graduate, professional and undergraduate teaching and public service. Founded in 1896, the Big Ten has sustained a comprehensive set of shared practices and policies that enforce the priority of academics in the lives of students competing in intercollegiate athletics and emphasize the values of integrity, fairness and competitiveness. The broad-based programs of the 14 Big Ten institutions will provide over $200 million in direct financial support to more than 9,500 students for more than 11,000 participation opportunities on 350 teams in 42 different sports. The Big Ten sponsors 28 official conference sports, 14 for men and 14 for women, including the addition of men's ice hockey and men's and women's lacrosse since 2013. For more information, visit bigten.org.