Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren has been named the next President/CEO of the Corporation Chicago BearsFrench announced Thursday. Warren, 59, took the best position in the Big Ten in 2020 after 22 years in NFL operations with Los Angeles RamsAnd Detroit Lions And Minnesota Vikings.
Bears Chairman George H.via the team website). “He is a proven leader and has stepped outside his comfort zone many times to challenge the status quo for unconventional growth and prosperity. In this role, Warren will serve in the primary leadership position for the franchise to help bring the next Super Bowl trophy home for Bears fans.”
Warren, the first black commissioner of the Power Five conference, was the Vikings’ chief operating officer before joining the Big Ten, leading the conference through a turbulent time in college athletics. While his tenure with the Big Ten was marred by the league’s early decision to cancel the 2020 football season amid the COVID-19 pandemic (a move later reversed with a late start to the league), there have been some notable successes in the past couple of years.
The Big Ten successfully recruited USC and UCLA away from the Pac-12 with the California Powers joining the league as its newest member in 2024. The conference also announced a new seven-year media rights deal with CBS, Fox and NBC that is valued at approximately $1.2 billion annually.
“I am honored and acknowledge the responsibility I have been given to lead the Chicago Bears through this exciting and pivotal time for the franchise,” Warren said (via the team’s website). “I look forward to building on the rich tradition that began with George Halas and connecting with Chicago’s unique and vibrant fanbase. I joined the Chicago Bears with gratitude and a quest to carry on and build on the legacy and spirit of this founding franchise and my predecessors. This is a franchise respected in all professional sports, and I feel Humbled to be selected as the next President and CEO of the Chicago Bears. I sincerely thank Virginia McCaskey, George McCaskey, the McCaskey family, and Ted Phillips, the search team, for the responsibility and trust placed in me to lead the Chicago Bears and bring championships to Chicago.”
What’s next for the bears?
Ted Phillips, who has been President and CEO of the Bears since 1999, will retire in February after 40 seasons with one of the NFL’s most iconic franchises. Given his NFL experience and given the Big Ten’s home base in Rosemont, Illinois—just outside of Chicago—the transition to franchise leadership is a natural for Warren.
Warren’s term in Chicago will begin on April 17, per ESPN.
“It was important to make sure the Bears had the right captain in place before I retired,” said Phillips (via the team’s website). “Kevin will do an excellent job of bringing out the best in the great people at Halas Hall and continuing to grow our proud franchise.”
The Bears are looking to build a new stadium in the coming years, and Warren’s experience overseeing a stadium deal for the Vikings makes him a comfortable fit with the franchise’s next biggest project.
Warren’s Bears holds the #1 overall pick in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft after posting the league’s worst 3-14 record. While Chicago didn’t find much success on the field in 2022 under first-year head coach Matt Eberflus, it did see a huge leap for Justin Fields as the starting quarterback.
The former No. 11 overall was selected for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 15 games played, and also became just the third quarterback in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season, as Fields reached 1,143 yards And eight downs. General Manager Ryan Pauls has done a solid job preparing Chicago for this rebuilding, as the Bears have seven draft picks in the 2023 draft.
“Kevin will be a tremendous resource and I’m excited to get started with him,” General Manager Ryan Bowles said (via the team website). “In the time I spent with him during the interview process it quickly became clear his resume and his business acumen will be a strong asset to help improve our organization and ultimately reach our goal of being a champion organization.”
What’s next for the Big Ten?
The conference will enter the second commissioner search over the past four seasons, marking an unprecedented change in position after decades of stability. Warren’s predecessor, Jim Delaney, announced in March 2019 that he intended to retire after serving in the position since 1989.
The Big Ten is the latest Power Five league to undergo a shakeup at the top of the league. Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark was appointed to office on June 29 of this year, while ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips and Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkov have been in office since 2021. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey was promoted in 2015, making making him the longest serving Power Five commissioner by a wide margin.
Even though the Big Ten has weathered COVID-19, conference realignment and a new media rights agreement under Warren, there are still plenty of challenges ahead for the conference. Merging USC and UCLA into the league is going to need a dexterous hand. Nationally, the future of name, image, and sameness rules looms large in college sports, and the Big Ten commissioner—whoever he is—should be a key voice in that conversation as the leader of one of the nation’s two largest conferences along with the SEC.
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