Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports, and Ross Dillinger of Sports Illustrated, discuss Kevin Warren’s stint as commissioner of the Big Ten while leaving to become president and CEO of the Chicago Bears.
Rose Dillinger: You know, and I think there are some ads, specifically in his league, I’m not upset to see him leave.
Dan Wetzel: Kevin Warren, Big Ten, 3.5 years stint. Coming from the Minnesota Vikings, this has been an eventful 3.5 years. He has reached the transportation portal.
Some messing must have been done. He’s looking for a good zero bargain. He’s a running back for the NFL’s Chicago Bears. Funny how that works. Someone is looking for a better opportunity, maybe more money. I know it’s absolutely outrageous. We need guardrails to stop this kind of behavior from Kevin Warren – these commissioners just left.
Rose Dillinger: off and rolling. It just rolls and rolls, folks.
Dan Wetzel: How do we survive this? Are we going to have NCAA legislation about this to stop this? He was still employed by the Big Ten, somehow he must have talked to the Bears. What happened? How does this work?
Rose Dillinger: yes.
Dan Wetzel: I don’t know. I don’t know. But no, he’s gone. Running for 3.5 years for Warren. It came up, I remember people were like, well, it’s going to take him a while to go and figure it out. Let’s run through the greatest hits, not hits.
August 2020, all five conferences are going to, like, pacing and canceling their season or playing together seems to be the mood. The Big Ten decided, hell no, they pulled the plug on the season for COVID. Nobody follows other than the Pac-12.
Other schools go, no we play. Then the Big Ten have to flip. It was very insulting and controversial. Then everyone said, well, that’s it for Kevin Warren. It doesn’t do a very good job. Fans wanted him fired.
By 2021, he’s built a coalition in response to the SEC’s decision to take Oklahoma and Texas as expansion candidates, two teams every conference in America would have been pleased to take on. The Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 respond with a little hiss and form this fuzzy alliance, handshake agreement—no guardrails on that. They’re going to form a voting bloc, and pretty much the only electoral bloc they’ve done is they’ve bombed the playoffs for a while.
Then comes 2022 and messing around, the transfer portal, the nothing deals, all that. Kevin Warren blows a handshake deal and snaps UCLA and USC out of the Pac-12 so he can sign a richer media rights deal for the Big Ten, dramatically changing college sports. And now, he’s gone like this. That’s a lot going on in 3.5 years.
Rose Dillinger: it’s a. It’s been a busy 3.5 years. And he kind of had the unfortunate timing, right, of taking over the first few months of his work was the pandemic. And that was unfortunate for him. And I think a lot of people probably said that decision, that decision, even though it wasn’t quite his —
Dan Wetzel: yes.
Rose Dillinger: Yes, I think the Big Ten Chiefs group is who he’s working with. And they closed and canceled football. And that was, like I said, just — it’s been up and down.
His tenure started out on a pretty low note, right, with the pandemic, the lockdown, all that stuff. And maybe his management style, that kind of rubbing against some sporting directors and in that wrong way. He started low, then kept climbing, likely peaking when he helped lead the expansion of USC and UCLA and then signed, really, a billion-dollar-a-year television contract that is the richest contract ever signed in college. Sports history.
So it was up and down. I think it’s likely — honestly, there are probably a lot of people in college athletics who aren’t upset about Kevin Warren leaving college athletics. I think there’s probably a lot of people, a lot of commissioners, a lot of people in the CFP commissioner’s room, primarily based on, as you mentioned, the coalition and negotiations around a CFP playoff — an expanded playoff — which I’m not happy to see him leave. You know, and I think there are some ads, specifically in his league, I’m not upset to see him leave.
I think there was a frustration with Kevin Warren with college athletics, with college athletics from his point of view. He was a professional man. I think a lot of people, like we said earlier, get into college athletics and they kind of say, what? when? work this way? why?
Where are the contracts and regulations? And where is the one-commissioner leadership? And college athletics has none of that. And I think that frustrated him a lot.
Perhaps this was a big reason why he wanted to return to professional sports. And it’s not surprising — ESPN obviously reported about it a couple of weeks ago that this was probably coming. But even before that, he’s done a few interviews with pro teams over the course of probably the last year.
Dan Wetzel: But he was under contract with the Big Ten, so we know they’re not going to mess around like that.
Rose Dillinger: Speaking of his contract, right, he’s in year four — he was entering year four of a five-year contract, and it wasn’t extended. Something to note.
Dan Wetzel: Oh, he might have been outside.