After serving as an instrumental part of the Minnesota Vikings’ front office for nearly 15 years, chief operating officer Kevin Warren is moving on to become the commissioner of the Big Ten conference.
Reports surfaced late Monday night that Warren was a front-runner for the position, and the news was confirmed Tuesday as the Vikings released a statement coinciding with Warren’s official appointment as the successor of Jim Delany, the Big Ten’s commissioner since 1989.
“Kevin has impacted the Vikings and our family in immeasurable ways over the last 15 years,” Mark and Zygi Wilf said in the statement. “He has worked tirelessly to elevate the Vikings franchise, all with the greater good of the organization and Minneapolis-St. Paul in mind. From the very onset, Kevin helped us navigate and execute the purchase of the franchise.
“Kevin has been a tremendous leader for the Vikings and he and his family have been passionately and intricately involved in the community, enhancing the lives of so many people. We know the Big Ten and their student-athletes, coaches, and administrators are extremely fortunate to have his leadership, character, and vision, and we wish Kevin and the Warren family all the best.”
Warren began in law and served as counsel for the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions before representing the Wilf family during their purchase of the Vikings in 2005. He was hired as their Executive Vice President of Legal Affairs, a role that blossomed into numerous responsibilities for the team and the league.
Warren worked on NFL committees for emergency planning and workplace diversity, and in 2015 he was promoted to Vikings COO. He assisted with the development of U.S. Bank Stadium and TCO Performance Center and was pivotal in the formidable task of hosting Super Bowl LII. Along the way Warren advocated for the inclusion and promotion of women and minorities in the workplace, while he and his wife Greta donated millions to local charities.
Head coach Mike Zimmer called Warren “positive” and “supportive” and said the former COO will be addressing the team at mandatory mini-camp before they take their summer break.
“He’s an outstanding leader, he’s a great communicator,” Zimmer said. “I think the Big Ten is getting a great leader and a great innovative guy that’s going to continue to take that conference to bigger and better things.”
Warren, 55, now takes over the post held by Delany for three decades. The recently-expanded conference now has 14 teams and 28 sports. After being the first African American COO of an NFL team, he is now the first African American commissioner of a Power 5 Conference.
At his introductory press conference, he said he hopes to give other people the same type of opportunities he was granted to ascend up the corporate ladder.
Kevin Warren comes from a family that’s experienced a lot of firsts.
Officially the first black P5 commissioner, does he consider himself a pioneer? pic.twitter.com/EsMAf6YXRs
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) June 4, 2019
“There’ve been a lot of firsts in my family, so I’m comfortable in this skin,” Warren said. “I think what it says, it’s not only about color, it’s really about diversion, about inclusion, and really it’s about opportunity. And one of the things I really will stand for here is to make sure, regardless of your background, regardless of your race, color, creed, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, this will be a place from an inclusive standpoint that we will embrace everyone.”