The Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) announced this summer that Minnesota Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren has been named the sixth commissioner of the Big Ten Conference. He will start on Sept. 16, 2019, replacing 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.”
Big Ten’s officials were clearly ecstatic.
“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, according to the team. Since being promoted to COO, he 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’s visionary leadership also lead to a restructuring of the organization, “with an emphasis on broadening the executive team and promoting women to key executive positions.”
Warren called the career move a tremendous opportunity.
“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,” he said. “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.
Warren earned his Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Grand Canyon University 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.