Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren has accepted a position as President and CEO of the Chicago Bears, a source confirmed to Front Office Sports. NFL Network first reported the hire.
Warren will begin official business this spring, the Bears said in an official announcement.
His duties will extend to bringing a Super Bowl to Chicago, building a new stadium, and working on several football operations tasks including the No. 1 draft pick and salary cap. He will be the first Black American to hold such a position in Bears history.
Warren “is a proven leader who has many times stepped outside of his comfort zone to challenge status quo for unconventional growth and prosperity,” Bears Chairman George McCaskey said in a statement.
Warren leaves the Big Ten after just three seasons during which he arguably precipitated several of the biggest shifts in college sports.
When he arrived at the conference, one of his first acts was to cancel — and then reinstate — the Big Ten football season during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He made many enemies with this decision.
But now, he’ll exit the conference as perhaps one of the most successful conference commissioners in recent memory — more than living up to the standard set by previous Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany.
- He secured the largest conference media rights deal in history: a mid-$7 billion package between CBS, Fox, and NBC.
- He oversaw USC and UCLA, two of college sports’ biggest brands, agreeing to join the Big Ten — both adding value to the conference and establishing it in the lucrative west coast media market for the first time.
- Warren also modernized the conference through bringing sponsorships in-house and facilitated gender equity improvements like the first Big Ten women’s volleyball media days.
- Warren was one of the few commissioners who did not completely discount the idea of sharing media rights revenues with athletes, though he made no promises.
This isn’t Warren’s first foray into the NFL. Before the Big Ten, he served as the COO of the Minnesota Vikings, and also held positions with the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions.
Going forward, the Big Ten will need another forward-looking leader — perhaps a business executive like the Big 12’s Brett Yormark — to take the helm of one of two college sports “Super Conferences.”