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Kevin Warren Named Next Chicago Bears President: Big Ten Commish Quits Job After Three Years

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Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren has been named the next president/CEO of the Chicago Bears, the franchise announced Thursday. Warren, 59, took the Big Ten top job in 2020 after 22 years in NFL operations with the Los Angeles Rams, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings.

“Kevin is a man of integrity, respect and excellence, all of which are critical core values ​​of the Chicago Bears, and we welcome his perspective and diverse thinking to lead this historic organization,” said Bears President George H. .McCaskey (Via Team’s website). “He is a proven leader who has often stepped out of his comfort zone to challenge the status quo for unconventional growth and prosperity. In this role, Warren will serve in the franchise’s primary leadership position to help bring about the next Super League championship trophy. Bowl home to Bears fans.”

Warren, the first black commissioner of a Power Five conference, was the Vikings’ director of operations before joining the Big Ten, where he led the conference through a period of turmoil in collegiate athletics. While his tenure with the Big Ten was derailed by the league’s initial decision to cancel the 2020 football season amid the COVID-19 pandemic (a change that was later reversed with a delayed start of the league), there were some notable successes in the past two years.

The Big Ten successfully recruited USC and UCLA out of the Pac-12, with the California powerhouses joining the league as its newest members in 2024. The conference also announced a new seven-year media rights deal with CBS, Fox and NBC, valued at approximately $1.2 billion a year.

“I am honored and recognize the responsibility given to me to lead the Chicago Bears through this exciting and pivotal time for the franchise,” Warren said (via the team’s website). “I look forward to building on the rich tradition that began with George Halas and connecting with Chicago’s unique and vibrant fan base. I join the Chicago Bears with gratitude and a desire to carry out and build on the legacy and spirit of this founding franchise and my predecessors. This is a franchise that is respected throughout professional sports, and I am honored to be chosen as the next president and CEO of the Chicago Bears. My sincere thanks to Virginia McCaskey, George McCaskey, the McCaskey family, Ted Phillips and the team search engine, for the responsibility and trust placed in me to lead the Chicago Bears and deliver championships to Chicago.”

What’s next for the Bears?

Ted Phillips, who has been president and CEO of the Bears since 1999, is retiring in February after 40 seasons with one of the NFL’s most storied franchises. Given his NFL experience and considering the Big Ten’s home base is in Rosemont, Illinois – just outside of Chicago – a transition to leading the franchise is a natural fit for Warren.

Warren’s term in Chicago will begin April 17, by ESPN.

“It was important to make sure the Bears had the right leader before I retired,” Phillips said (via the team’s website). “Kevin will do an excellent job of bringing the best of the great people of Halas Hall and continuing the evolution of our proud franchise.”

The Bears are eyeing a new stadium in the coming years, and Warren’s experience overseeing a stadium deal for the Vikings makes him a comfortable fit for the franchise’s biggest future project.

The Warren’s Bears hold the #1 overall pick in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft after posting a league-worst 3-14 record. While Chicago hasn’t seen much success on the field in 2022 under first-year head coach Matt Eberflus, it has seen Justin Fields make a huge leap forward at halfback.

The former No. 11 overall threw for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 15 games played, and he also became just the third quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000+ yards in a single season, with Fields amassing 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns. General Manager Ryan Poles has done a solid job preparing Chicago for this rebuild, as the Bears have seven picks in the 2023 draft.

“Kevin will be a tremendous asset and I’m excited to get started with him,” said general manager Ryan Poles (via the team’s website). “In the time I spent with him during the interview process, it quickly became clear that his resume and business acumen will be a powerful asset in helping to improve our organization and ultimately achieve our goal of being a champion organization.”

What’s next for the Big Ten?

The conference will enter its second commissioner hunt in four seasons, marking an unprecedented turnover in the position after decades of stability. Warren’s predecessor, Jim Delany, announced in March 2019 that he planned to retire after serving in office since 1989.

The Big Ten is just the latest Power Five league to undergo a shift to its top spot. Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark was appointed to his position on June 29 of this year, while ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips and Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff have held their positions since 2021. SEC’s Greg Sankey was promoted in 2015, making him the longest-tenure Commissioner in the Power Five by a wide margin.

While the Big Ten has navigated COVID-19, conference realignments and a new media rights deal under Warren, many challenges remain for the conference. Navigating USC and UCLA’s league integration will require a deft hand. Nationally, the future of name, image, and likeness rules in collegiate sports is big, and the Big Ten commissioner – whoever he may be – should be a key voice in that conversation as leader of one of the country’s two major conferences alongside the second.