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Volume 26 No. 25
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Big Ten Hiring Kevin Warren A Significant Step For College Sports

Warren will be tasked with trying to get the Big Ten back to the CFP after a two-year absence
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Big Ten hiring Vikings COO Kevin Warren as its new commissioner is "one of the most substantial 21st century occurrences in college athletics," as an African-American is "now leading the oldest, most profitable and arguably most traditional" of the Power Five conferences, according to Pat Forde of YAHOO SPORTS. Selecting Warren to lead the Big Ten "should do more than improve the bad optics of college sports." It should "herald the beginning of the end of a stubbornly enduring Old Boys Club." The hire "hopefully will further motivate minority athletes to seek college sports leadership positions after they finish playing." The Big Ten "didn't just break a color barrier," it "broke a mold" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/4). In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan writes Warren is "not an accidental trailblazer, nor is he a symbolic hire." College sports are "overdue for change, and not just in leadership demographics." Warren is "built to embrace change, and to lead" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 6/5). In Detroit, Shawn Windsor writes Warren becoming the first African-American to lead a Power Five conference is "no small thing." That it "took this long for a Power 5 conference to hire a black man to lead is shameful," but "at least it finally happened." (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 6/5). Fox' Charles Davis said Warren being the first African-American Power Five commissioner will bring "increased scrutiny" and "sometimes some extra criticism." Davis added, "He will do it fairly, he will do it with great pride and character … but he also won't let the Big Ten get run over, either” (Big Ten Network, 6/4).

A LOT ON HIS PLATE: In Detroit, Chris Solari notes Warren in his new role will be "tasked with trying to get the Big Ten back to the four-team College Football Playoff after a two-year absence while looking ahead to potentially expanding that field." Warren said, "You think about what the next five to 10 to 15 years look like. When I accepted this job, I didn't look at it as this is a today job. I looked at it as a long-term job" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 6/5). USA TODAY's George Schroeder writes Warren will take on a "complex, challenging job during a very tenuous time of change." Warren "offered no hints as to his stances on a couple of big issues, including compensation for college athletes and expansion" of the CFP. But that "time will come," as Warren "becomes one of the first of what will become, in the near future, a new generation of college leaders who will make enormous decisions" (USA TODAY, 6/5). In Chicago, Shannon Ryan notes Warren at his introductory press conference yesterday "emphasized that diversity and inclusion across racial, gender and sexual orientation lines has long been part of his mission and will continue to be in the Big Ten." Warren: "I will make sure, regardless of your background, race, color, creed, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, this will be a place where we embrace everyone and give everyone an opportunity to be the best they can be" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/5). ESPN's Scott Van Pelt said Warren will face some “interesting challenges,” including whether the sports “rights bubble will actually pop” and compensating NCAA student-athletes (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 6/5).

NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY: Warren officially starts Sept. 16 and will step into one of the two most influential positions in college athletics -- SEC commissioner being the other -- with virtually no experience working in college. That rankles some of the more established ADs, who said that they are frustrated with the recent trend of non-traditional hires. They believe their experience is being undervalued. While Warren may not have a background in college administration, he has so much more to offer the Big Ten (Michael Smith, SBJ College). Meanwhile, Indiana President Michael McRobbie said that the Big Ten "considered more than 60 candidates." He "would not say how many were interviewed." But there were "multiple meetings with Warren, with the decision to hire him made on Sunday." Vikings co-Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf had "nothing but praise for Warren" (AP, 6/4).