Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren hired as Chicago Bears president and CEO

Warren served as the conference commissioner from 2019-23 and orchestrated USC and UCLA’s addition to the conference in 2024.


Gabby Drees

Kevin Warren, commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, speaks during day one of Big Ten Media Days at Target Center in Minneapolis on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. This year marks the first year of the Target Center hosting Big Ten Media Days. “Our priority has to make sure that we ensure growth, sustainability, and strength for our student athletes and our member institutions.”

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

Kevin Warren will leave his post as the Big Ten Commissioner to become the Chicago Bears’ next president and CEO, it was announced Thursday.

Warren, an attorney, became the conference commissioner in 2019 after working two decades in the NFL, including time with the Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Cardinals, and Detroit Lions. His hire marked the first Black commissioner of a Power Five conference.

Warren’s tenure in the Big Ten’s highest office had highs and lows. He drew criticism for his decision to cancel the 2020 football season because of COVID-19  — the only Power Five conference to do so at the time. The conference walked back that policy and allowed football to play a shortened, conference-only schedule starting in October 2020.

In summer 2022, Warren orchestrated the addition of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten starting in August 2024, growing the conference from 14 to 16 teams and giving it a coast-to-coast presence. He also negotiated a $7 billion media rights deal with FOX, ABC, and NBC. Each school in the conference will receive $75 million annually in the deal, which includes coverage of football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball.

“Commissioner Warren was pivotal in the expansion from 14-to-16 academic and athletic member institutions and leading the media rights negotiations for the conference,” the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors said in a statement on Thursday. “He has been dedicated to building inclusion and equity in the conference while championing mental health and wellness. We thank him for his service and wish him the very best in his new endeavor as the president and chief executive officer of the Chicago Bears.”

The Big Ten also stated it will work with Warren for a smooth transition period and start a nationwide search for a new conference commissioner.

Warren will replace former team president and CEO Ted Phillips, who spent more than 40 seasons with Chicago.

“I am honored and recognize the responsibility bestowed upon me to lead the Chicago Bears during this exciting and pivotal time for the franchise,” Warren said in a statement from the Chicago Bears. “I look forward to building on the rich tradition that started with George Halas and connecting with the unique and vibrant fanbase in Chicago. I join the Chicago Bears with gratitude and drive to carry out and build upon the legacy and spirit of this founding franchise and my predecessors. This is a franchise that is respected in all of professional sports, and I am humbled to be selected as the next President & CEO of the Chicago Bears.”

Warren’s hire comes at a pivotal time for the Bears, as they are hoping to build a new stadium in Arlington Heights — a suburb of Chicago. As chief administrative officer and chief operating officer from 2005-14 and 2015-19, respectively, for the Vikings, Warren was instrumental in all aspects of Minnesota’s new U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in Minneapolis in 2016.

The 59-year-old is the first Black president and CEO in Bears history and the first external hire. Bears chairman and owner George McCaskey hired Warren for the position.

“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 thought to lead this storied organization,” McCaskey said in a statement. “He is a proven leader who has many times stepped outside of his comfort zone to challenge status quo for unconventional growth and prosperity. In this role, Warren will serve in the primary leadership position of the franchise to help bring the next Super Bowl championship trophy home to Bears fans.”

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