• Loading stock data...
Friday, June 14, 2024

What Kevin Warren’s Departure Means for the Big Ten

  • The next commissioner will be tasked with maintaining the conference’s business strength.
  • But they’ll also have to navigate the barrage of changes college sports is facing.
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

In three short years as Big Ten Commissioner, Kevin Warren established the conference as one of the two most powerful in all of college sports — alongside the mighty SEC.

Over the next few months, Warren will begin to transition into a new role as President and CEO of the Chicago Bears — and the Big Ten will begin to search for a new leader. 

Now, the first order of business is for the Council of Presidents and Chancellors — the group that ultimately will choose a new commissioner — to begin the process of finding a new commissioner.

Bears Make Big Ten Commish New President and CEO

Warren leaves the Big Ten after just three seasons.
January 12, 2023

The role is certainly attractive, given that it’s one of the most powerful positions in college sports. But in reality, the next commissioner will face an uphill battle: navigating the barrage of changes the industry faces for a conference that is about to expand coast-to-coast. They must be willing to do a job that is increasingly unappealing, as burnout and disillusionment grows within the industry.

As usual, there are the status-quo candidates like ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips — who has only been in the role himself since 2020.

But the Big Ten will likely need a much more innovative leader. It could pluck another executive from outside college sports, like the Pac-12 and Big 12 both have done. Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff came from MGM Resorts International, and Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark arrived from Roc Nation.

Warren himself came from the Minnesota Vikings. 

One list from The Athletic floated candidates such as WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert or President and COO of Fox Sports, Mark Silverman.

Here’s what probably won’t be affected: The Big Ten is slated to be at least the second-highest, if not the highest-earning, conference in all of college sports starting in 2023-24 with a media rights contract that will pay out more than $1 billion annually. 

The conference will also probably not expand — Warren appeared to have expansion on a temporary hold anyway, but now presidents and chancellors will likely be busy with finding a replacement rather than adding new members. But after the Pac-12 finalizes its next media rights deal, there could be another wave across the sport.

In the long term, Warren envisioned a 20-team league. Could a new commissioner reach that goal?

But there’s one issue that could sink the conference no matter who is at its helm: athlete compensation. This year, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals and the NLRB will consider the question of whether athletes should be designated employees. If so, the entire current business model of college sports — which the Big Ten capitalizes on significantly — would crumble.

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

How the US Open is Designed for Drama


Featured Today

Jan 3, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; General view of the NFL shield logo signage before the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field.

Odds Stacked Against NFL in Multibillion-Dollar Sunday Ticket Trial

Why the class action trial does not look promising for the league.
Jan 7, 2024; San Francisco, California, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter (11) takes a three-point shot against the Golden State Warriors during the second half at Chase Center.
June 9, 2024

‘Bound to Happen’: The Age of the Sports Betting Scandal Has Arrived

A banishment, betting scheme, and guilty plea all in one scandal-filled span.
June 8, 2024

‘Experimental in Nature’: The Rapid, Confounding Rise of Streaming Bundles

Here’s why confusion continues to outweigh solutions in the streaming package boom.
June 2, 2024

The Nostalgia Market: Michael Jordan’s Memorabilia Remains Coveted, With Caveats

Due to scarcity, and sometimes, items’ undisclosed whereabouts, this world has limitations.
Apr 13, 2024; Hartford, CT, USA; UConn Huskies head coach Dan Hurley greets fans as he arrives at the state capitol before the teams victory parade.

The Many Beneficiaries of Dan Hurley’s UConn Career Crisis

His return inadvertently helped the players, athletic department, and perhaps the conference.
June 10, 2024

Dan Hurley Spurns Lakers for UConn in Stunner

The UConn coach went to Los Angeles late last week to hear the team out.
June 10, 2024

NC State’s 1983 Title Team Sues NCAA Over Name, Image, and Likeness

The ’83 team is one of March Madness’s most memorable Cinderellas.

How HOKA is Reimagining the NIL Relationship

HOKA, the renowned athletic footwear and apparel brand, is betting on a new reality with NIL.
Jun 4, 2024; Eugene, OR, USA; A NCAA logo flag at Hayward Field.
June 5, 2024

How the NCAA Plans to Stop Employment in Its Tracks After Settlement

NCAA will use House settlement to end the threat of employee status.

How HOKA is Reimagining the NIL Relationship

HOKA, the renowned athletic footwear and apparel brand, is betting on a new reality with NIL.
General view of the stadium during the game between the LSU Tigers and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Charles Schwab Field Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
June 1, 2024

CWS Jell-O Shot Challenge: Everything You Need to Know

LSU set an all-time record last year, topping the whiteboard with 68,888 shots.
June 1, 2024

The Pac-12 Wants Everybody to Know That It Isn’t Dead Yet

With a broadcast studio and two schools, the league plans to rebuild.