Don’t call it an upset…but definitely call the announcement that Minnesota Vikings COO Kevin Warren is the 6th Big Ten commissioner a surprise.
Warren certainly has the credentials within administration of sports, but he was not a name on the hot list that Sports Business Journal put together in May, nor was he a name leaked in the media at all.
In fact, many believed that current Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips was the front runner. Instead, the Big Ten went in a completely different direction and once again blazed its own path instead of following the status quo.
Warren will take over from long-standing commissioner Jim Delany on Jan. 1, 2020, which is six months earlier than Delany’s original contract would have ended.
It will be a vital transition period, as the Big Ten looks to figure out a new set of television contracts and the future of the Big Ten Network too. Working alongside Delany in this situation for a few more months will be a huge help in getting him acclimated to that aspect of his new role.
Warren is the first African-American to become a Power 5 conference commissioner and most importantly has represented both player and administrative positions in the past.
He gets what it means to be a college athlete — having been one himself and having a son who is one now— and he understands the needs of the administrations, which is a unique mix of skill sets.
As for where Warren will take the league? From his opening press conference, you could tell he put an emphasis on creativity, thoughtfulness and integrity.
What he didn’t do is make some bold statement about controversial subjects in college sports today. Instead, it was about making the public understand where he came from and how he wants to go about his business in a general sense.
I expect we’ll hear more about his vision for the conference once he gets beyond the first few months and in to the television negotiations over the next year.
As for today, what we saw was a man that commands a room and understands who he is. That more than anything is the mark of a great leader, and that’s what the Big Ten needs as they push forward in to this new era.
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