The Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) voted unanimously on June 4, 2019, to select Mr. Kevin Warren as the sixth conference Commissioner in history. Commissioner Warren joins an esteemed lineage of Big Ten Commissioners, beginning with John Griffith (1922-45), Tug Wilson (1945-61), Bill Reed (1961-71), Wayne Duke (1971-89) and Jim Delany (1989-2020). Warren serves as the first and only African American Commissioner in A-5 history
The conference entered a new era on January 2, 2020, when Commissioner Warren officially began his tenure with the Big Ten. The overarching mission of the Commissioner is to respect the tradition of the Big Ten Conference, protect the conference, and to positively transform the conference. During his first year of service, Commissioner Warren launched a series of groundbreaking initiatives to address issues associated with mental health and wellness, social justice, voter registration and the international COVID-19 pandemic. These initiatives were imagined and instituted with the legacy of the conference’s student-athletes, coaches, administrators and fans in mind.
Commissioner Warren remained focused and methodical during the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 7, 2020, the conference partnered with all 14 of its member institutions to create the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases. The Emerging Infectious Diseases Task Force members represent numerous disciplines across campus healthcare systems and schools of public health to provide counsel and sound medical advice to ensure the health, safety and wellness of the Big Ten’s students, coaches, administrators and fans. The Emerging Infectious Diseases Task Force is a valuable resource when conference officials need to interpret local, state and federal health department guidelines, and NCAA recommendations, to institute safety and wellness protocols.
Less than two months later on May 4, 2020, the conference announced the formation of the Big Ten Mental Health and Wellness Cabinet, featuring representation from all 14 member institutions, as well as sport affiliate members Johns Hopkins (men’s and women’s lacrosse) and Notre Dame (men’s ice hockey). The goal of the Cabinet is to promote optimal mental health for Big Ten student-athletes through a comprehensive, systemic and interdisciplinary approach to establishing mental health programs, while also providing counsel, advice and expertise to the conference office.
Following the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, Commissioner Warren wrote an open letter on June 1, 2020, announcing the formation of the Big Ten Equality Coalition. The Equality Coalition features student-athletes, coaches, athletic directors, chancellors, presidents and other members of the Big Ten family from all 14 member institutions, has a stated goal of seeking tangible ways to actively and constructively combat racism and hate around the world, while also empowering student-athletes to express their rights to free speech and peaceful protest. The United States Library of Congress selected Commissioner Warren’s open letter for inclusion in its historic collection.
A product of the Equality Coalition was the creation of the Big Ten Voter Registration Initiative. The nonpartisan, conference-wide collaboration encourages student-athletes to take part in the electoral process and is led by a Voter Registration Committee that includes representatives from all 14 Big Ten institutions. The Voter Registration Committee partners with the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to develop educational programming, outreach tools, foster open and honest dialogue with law enforcement and collaborate with other established civic platforms.
On August 11, 2020, the COP/C overwhelmingly voted to postpone the Big Ten fall sports season due to growing medical concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure a cohesive, collaborative and transparent return to competition, Commissioner Warren and the COP/C established the Return to Competition Task Force (Task Force) to research and prepare for the safe resumption of sports. On September 16, 2020, the COP/C and the conference announced they had adopted stringent medical protocols to resume football October 23-24, 2020. The decision was based on the new medical information presented by the Task Force and positioned the conference as one of the most medically advanced in the country.
Commissioner Warren joined the conference after serving as the Chief Operating Officer for the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League where he had worked since 2005. He was the highest-ranking African American executive working on the business side for a team in the NFL and the first African American COO in NFL history.
Commissioner Warren’s extensive experience in all facets of the Minnesota Vikings organization created the perfect foundation for him to lead the business operations. After being promoted to COO, Commissioner 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. Commissioner Warren also played a key role in the design, development and planning of Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, the Vikings headquarters in Eagan, Minnesota, in addition to the ancillary real estate development of Viking Lakes. Under Commissioner Warren’s visionary leadership, the Vikings restructured the organization, with an emphasis on broadening the executive team and promoting women to key executive positions.
During his 21 seasons in the NFL, and 15 with the Vikings, Commissioner 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, Commissioner Warren’s reputation and NFL experience were recognized when he was named a member of the NFL Committee on Workplace Diversity, 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, Commissioner Warren was honored with the Texas Southern University Pioneer Award, recognizing his groundbreaking role as an NFL executive and his commitment to championing diversity. Commissioner Warren was also honored as a member of the Sports Business Journal 2019 Champions class.
Prior to joining the Vikings, Commissioner 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. Commissioner Warren was an integral part of the Rams organization when they won Super Bowl XXXIV over the Tennessee Titans in January of 2000.
Prior to joining the St. Louis Rams organization, Commissioner Warren worked at a law firm with Mike Slive and Mike Glazier, specializing in representation of universities charged with NCAA violations. He also worked as a sports and entertainment attorney/agent representing various professional athletes, entertainers and broadcasters as the founder of Kevin Warren and Associates.
An avid student-athlete, Commissioner Warren enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a member of the Quakers’ Ivy League championship basketball team in 1982. He then completed his undergraduate education at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, where he excelled both in the classroom and on the basketball court. Commissioner Warren scored 1,118 points during his career at Grand Canyon and earned 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. Commissioner Warren was inducted into the GCU Athletics Hall of Fame in March of 2012, the 16th individual inducted and only the fifth basketball player to earn the prestigious honor in the University’s history.
Commissioner 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. Commissioner Warren is a licensed attorney with the State Bar of Kansas, Michigan and the District of Columbia.
Several members of Commissioner 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 in 1948 for the Brooklyn Dodgers of the All-America Football Conference. The senior Mr. 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. Commissioner Warren’s mother served the community as an elementary school librarian.
Philanthropy is an integral part of Commissioner Warren’s life, and he and his wife, Greta, were active members of the Minneapolis-St. Paul community during his tenure with the Vikings. 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 underserved communities. The Warrens have donated over 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 donated their time mentoring students.
In 2014, the Warrens created Carolyn’s Comforts in conjunction with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and have donated $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 its inception, more than 500 financial grants have been made to families in need.
In 2017, the Warrens 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 a four-year, $5,000 per year academic scholarship to attend the institution of their choice. The Warrens plan to continue awarding four scholarships annually until a total of 16 students are in the program on a perpetual basis. In 2020, 12 students attended college.
Commissioner and Mrs. Warren also started The Warren Family Foundation in 2019. The nonprofit foundation is organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes of educational, literacy, religious, and scientific-medical permitted by Section 501(c)(3) and Section 170(c)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended. In 2020, the Warren Family Foundation partnered with The Dewey School of Excellence, an Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) in Chicago, to provide resources ranging from after school programs, academic workshops, technology and uniforms to emergency assistance funds.
The Warren family currently resides in Chicago and has two children — daughter, Peri, who graduated Cum Laude from Occidental College in 2019 and is scheduled to attend Northwestern University in the fall of 2021 to pursue her Master’s Degree in Leadership for Creative Enterprises, and son, Powers, a football student-athlete at Michigan State University who is currently pursuing his Master’s Degree in Kinesiology, and graduated in 2020 from Mississippi State University. Commissioner Warren, 57, was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona.