Kevin Warren, the Vikings chief operating officer, was officially named the next commissioner of the Big Ten at a news conference Tuesday morning at the league’s offices in Rosemont, Ill.
Warren, 55, will start working alongside current commissioner Jim Delany on Sept. 16, 2019. Delany, who has run the conference since 1989, plans to step down Jan. 1, 2020.
As the highest-ranking black executive on the business side of an NFL team, Warren now becomes the first black commissioner of a Power Five conference.
“I’m just speechless,” Warren said at the news conference. “To have an opportunity to lead the Big Ten Conference and follow in the shoes of Jim Delany is truly an honor. It will definitely be a challenge, but my entire life has been about challenges and overcoming challenges.”
Warren nearly came to tears recalling how he went from doctors telling him he may never walk again after a car accident as a child to eventually earning a scholarship to play college basketball. The Arizona native played at Penn and Grand Canyon State, then graduated with an MBA from Arizona State and a law degree from Notre Dame.
Warren joined the Vikings after assisting the Wilf family as an attorney when they purchased the Vikings in 2005. He was promoted to COO for the franchise in 2015. His role was significant in the construction of U.S. Bank Stadium and the Vikings’ training complex in Eagan.
“Kevin has impacted the Vikings and our family in immeasurable ways over the last 15 years,” Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf said as part of their statement.
In 2016, Warren was part of the search firm that helped the Gophers hire Mark Coyle as athletic director.
Indiana President Michael McRobbie said the Big Ten considered more than 60 candidates. Warren’s name didn’t publicly surface until Monday. He was not among the nine candidates mentioned in an April report in Sports Business Journal.
The Associated Press and Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.