Kevin Warren Navigates Big Ten Through Unprecedented First Year
The Big Ten on Wednesday reversed its decision to postpone the fall football season, and for conference Commissioner Kevin Warren, the announcement "capped perhaps the most intense introduction imaginable to his new job governing in a college football landscape that often seems ungovernable," according to Higgins & Bachman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Warren was "just getting established when he faced the unprecedented backlash that came with the postponement of football," and now it is up to him to "unify the fractured conference." The postponement of fall football was "a lot for Warren to manage eight months into the job, particularly for a commissioner with a markedly different management style than his predecessor." Former Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany presided over "huge media-rights fee increases, launching the lucrative Big Ten Network, and had close relationships with coaches and athletic directors." Warren has "prioritized the league's presidents and chancellors, upping the frequency of meetings with them from twice a year to every month." After the conference recommitted to fall games, Warren said that he "heard from some of his fiercest critics." Warren: "I've gotten calls (Wednesday) from people who were very judgmental and now they're saying, 'Oh this makes sense, now I see what is going on'" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/18).
BENT BUT NOT BROKEN: In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein wonders if the back-and-forth with Big Ten football did "permanent damage" to Warren's reputation. Greenstein: "Doubtful." Warren is a first-year commissioner who "hadn't worked in college sports for decades, and at times it showed." His reasons for postponing Aug. 11 "were unclear, and he waited eight days to resurface, allowing frustration to fester." But Warren "seems determined to improve the flaws in his game." He "might have lost the fan base, at least for now, but he works for the chancellors and presidents of the 14 schools." If Big Ten football "thrives in 2020 -- and if Warren succeeds in the conference's next media rights deal -- much of the last five weeks will be forgotten" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/18). SBJ's Michael Smith wrote to give Warren credit for "continuing to prepare for the return of football, whether it was this year or next." He took "a lot of heat over the last month, and deservedly so, but the process he managed was instrumental to getting back on the field." The Big Ten's chancellors and presidents being on the same page was a "victory for the conference. And for Warren" (SBJ College).
THE RIGHT CALL? In Wisconsin, Tom Oates writes the Big Ten in the end "got to the right place." How it got there is "another story altogether, an embarrassing saga in which the nation's most prim and proper college athletic conference looked like it didn't have a clue what it was doing or who was doing it." The decision to pull the plug on football until the spring was "hasty and unnecessary and opened a window into the conference, revealing an appalling lack of communication, transparency and leadership in the post-Jim Delany Big Ten." But the "important thing is the Big Ten on Wednesday swallowed its pride, reversed its field and ended up where it should have been all along" (WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL, 9/18). Meanwhile, in Chicago, Mike McGraw writes it "didn't make sense for the Big Ten to pull the plug on fall sports on Aug. 11 and the change of direction seems equally odd." McGraw: "Here's the biggest problem with the Big Ten's original decision: If it was too dangerous to play fall sports, it was certainly unsafe for students to return to campus." The breakthrough for football "should have been keeping the players separated from the student body." Back in August, the Big Ten "should have announced that all players would take classes remotely, and moved on with the original plan." This is the "formula that had a chance to work" (CHICAGO DAILY HERALD, 9/18).