Speaker: Kevin Warren, Commissioner
Big Ten Conference
Kevin Warren serves as the sixth Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference and the first African American Commissioner to lead an Autonomy Five conference.
After being named Commissioner on June, 4, 2019, Warren shared his thoughts on the opportunity to serve in this role:
“I am absolutely honored to become the sixth Commissioner of the Big Ten, a conference with such rich history, tradition, and respect. The opportunity is an incredible and unique blend of my lifelong passion, commitment and experience. Positively impacting the lives of young adults has always been part of the fabric of my family and I will work tirelessly with our member schools to ensure that we are providing every possible best in class resource to enhance our students’ educational and athletic experience, as well as empower them for success upon graduation.”
Warren most recently served as the Chief Operating Officer for the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League where he worked since 2005. He was the highest-ranking African American executive working on the business side for a team in the NFL and was the first African American COO in NFL history.
Warren’s extensive experience in all facets of the Minnesota Vikings organization created the perfect foundation for him to lead the business operations. After being promoted to COO, Warren played a critical role in all business, financial, legal and operational aspects related to U.S. Bank Stadium and was involved in the design, construction, business, legal and operational components of the new stadium. Warren also played a key role in the design, development and planning of Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, the Vikings’ headquarters in Eagan, in addition to the ancillary real estate development of Viking Lakes. Under Warren’s visionary leadership, the Vikings restructured the organization, with an emphasis on broadening the executive team and promoting women to key executive positions.
Warren worked in the NFL for 21 seasons including 15 with the Vikings, where he directed the team’s focus on creating departmental synergy and collaboration, increasing financial profitability for the franchise, improving communication, developing leadership initiatives, implementing a platform focusing on a positive community impact through the new Minnesota Vikings Foundation, launching a women’s initiative program, creating an elevated fan experience, and building a world-class franchise focused on the tenets of hard work, ethics, financial profitability, community service and a “best-in-class” mentality.
In September of 2013, Warren’s reputation and NFL experience were recognized when he was named a member of the NFL Committee on Workplace Diversity, which is committed to enhancing and promoting diversity at every level of the NFL. In February of 2017, during Super Bowl LI festivities in Houston, Warren was honored with the Texas Southern University Pioneer Award, recognizing Kevin’s ground-breaking role as an NFL executive and his commitment to championing diversity. Warren was also honored as a member of the Sports Business Journal 2019 Champions class.
Prior to joining the Vikings, Warren worked for the international law firm of Greenberg Traurig (2003-2005) playing a critical leadership role with the Wilf Ownership Group deal team during the acquisition of the Minnesota Vikings. Additionally, he spent two seasons (2001-2003) with the Detroit Lions as Senior Vice President of Business Operations & General Counsel and four seasons (1997-2001) with the St. Louis Rams as Vice President of Football Administration, and Vice President of Player Programs and Legal Counsel. Warren was an integral part of the Rams organization when the team won Super Bowl XXXIV over the Tennessee Titans in January of 2000.
Warren’s first exposure to sports law came after he graduated from Notre Dame Law School. He worked at Bond Schoeneck & King with Mike Slive and Mike Glazier specializing in representation of colleges and universities charged with NCAA violations. He later worked as a sports and entertainment attorney/agent representing various professional athletes, entertainers and broadcasters as the founder of Kevin Warren & Associates.
As a freshman on the University of Pennsylvania basketball team, Warren was a member of the Quakers’ Ivy League championship team in 1982. A native of Tempe, Ariz., he completed his college education at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, earning his undergraduate degree. While at Grand Canyon, he excelled both in the classroom and on the basketball court. Warren scored 1,118 points during his career at Grand Canyon and earned GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-America honors as a senior along with NAIA Academic All-America honors and NAIA District 7 Basketball Team honors as both a junior and senior. In March 2012, Warren was inducted into the GCU Athletics Hall of Fame, the 16th individual inducted and only the fifth basketball player to earn the prestigious honor in the University’s history. In November of 2019, Warren was inducted into the 42nd annual W.P. Carey School of Business Alumni Hall of Fame at Arizona State University. Warren earned his Bachelor’s in Business Administration from GCU in 1986, his MBA from Arizona State University in 1988, and his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Notre Dame School of Law in 1990. Warren is a licensed attorney with the State Bar of Kansas, Michigan, and the District of Columbia.
Several members of Warren’s family have helped fuel his life-long passion for academics and sports, including his father, the late Dr. Morrison Warren Sr., who had a successful career at Arizona State University as a Professor of Education and who played professional football for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948 during the era of the All-American Football Conference. The senior Warren would go on to be the first African American President of a major college bowl game when he was named President of the 1982 Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors and was named one of Arizona State University’s 50 Greatest Football Players. Warren’s mother served the community as an elementary school librarian. His oldest brother, Morrison Jr., was one of the first African-American scholarship athletes at Stanford, playing football for the Cardinal in the early 1960s, before a knee injury cut short his promising athletic career.
Philanthropy is an integral part of Warren’s life, and he and his wife, Greta, served in an active role within the Minneapolis-St. Paul community. In 2012, The Warren family “adopted” Lucy Craft Laney Community School in Minneapolis, which is predominantly African American and has 98% of its student population coming from under-served communities. The Warrens have donated over 5,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to Lucy Laney and other Twin Cities elementary schools. The Warren family has also purchased athletic uniforms for the boys and girls basketball teams, school uniforms and donate their time mentoring students.
In 2014, the Warrens created Carolyn’s Comforts in conjunction with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and are donating $1 million to a pediatric emergency care fund, to honor the legacy of his sister Carolyn Elaine Warren-Knox, who passed away of brain cancer. Since the inception, more than 500 financial grants have been made to families in need.
In 2017, the Warrens launched “No Doors Closed,” a scholarship program selecting high school students from District 191 who will be first generation college students. Each student was awarded with a four-year, $5,000 per year academic scholarship to attend the institution of their choice. Kevin and Greta plan to continue awarding four scholarships annually until a total of 16 students are in the program on a perpetual basis. As of 2019, 12 students are attending college as a No Doors Closed Scholar.
In October of 2019, the Warren family formed the Warren Family Foundation with a mission to foster a culture fueled by civic leadership and youth engagement in our communities. For the Dewey School of Excellence, The Warren Family Foundation has donated school uniforms, facilitated test preparation programs, and will continue to promote engagement across various platforms in the Chicago metropolitan area such as creating an emergency assistance fund for Dewey School of Excellence families, coordinating a trip to Washington D.C. in 2021 for 8th grade students and facilitating tours to various museums and cultural sites in Chicago. In May of 2020, the Warren Family Foundation contributed over 100 Google Chromebooks to the students at The Dewey School of Excellence. The COVID-19 crisis exposed rampant divides in not only our public health systems, but also in the inequities vexing remote student learning
Warren and his wife, Greta, currently reside in downtown Chicago and have two children – daughter, Peri, who graduated Cum Laude from Occidental College in 2019 and son, Powers, a tight end with the Mississippi State University football program.