Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel and Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger discuss Kevin Warren’s stint as the commissioner of the Big Ten as he leaves to become president and CEO of the Chicago Bears.
ROSS DELLENGER: You know, and I think there's some ADs, specifically in his league, not unhappy to see him leave.
DAN WETZEL: Kevin Warren, the Big Ten, 3.5-year stint. Comes in from the Minnesota Vikings, and this was one eventful 3.5 years. He has hit the transfer portal.
Must have been some tampering. He's looking for a good NIL deal. He's headed back to the NFL, Chicago Bears. Funny how that works. Somebody seeking a better opportunity, potentially more money. I know, it's absolutely outrageous. We need guardrails to stop this kind of behavior from Kevin Warren-- these commissioners just leaving.
ROSS DELLENGER: Off and rolling. He's off and rolling, people.
DAN WETZEL: How do we survive this? Are we going to have an NCAA legislation on this to stop this? He was still employed by the Big Ten, somehow he must have talked to the Bears. What happened? How'd that work?
ROSS DELLENGER: Yeah.
DAN WETZEL: I don't know. I don't know. But no, he's gone. 3.5-year run for Warren. He shows up, I remember people being like, well, it's going to take a while for him to get going and figure it out. Let's run through the greatest hits and not hits.
August 2020, all five conferences are going to, like, walk in lockstep and cancel their season or play together seemed to be the mood. Big Ten decides, hell no, they pull the plug on the season for COVID. Nobody else follows other than the Pac-12.
The other schools, they go, no we're playing. Then the Big Ten has to reverse. It was highly humiliating and very controversial. And then everyone said, well, that's it for Kevin Warren. He's not doing a very good job. Fans wanted him fired.
By 2021, he creates the alliance in response to the SEC taking Oklahoma and Texas as expansion candidates, two teams that every conference in America would gladly have taken. The Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 respond with a little hissy fit and form this nebulous alliance, handshake agreement-- no guardrails on that one. They are going to form a voting bloc, and pretty much the only voting bloc they did was they blew up the Playoff for a while.
Then comes 2022 and tampering, transfer portal, NIL deals, all of it. Kevin Warren blows up the handshake deal and poaches UCLA and USC from the Pac-12 so he can sign an even richer media rights deal for the Big Ten, dramatically changing college sports. And now, he's gone just like that. That's a lot going on in 3.5 years.
ROSS DELLENGER: It is. It was a busy 3.5 years. And he kind of had the unfortunate timing, right, of taking over his first few months on the job was the pandemic. And that was unfortunate for him. And I think a lot of people would probably have said that the decision, that his decision, although it wasn't completely his decision--
DAN WETZEL: Yeah.
ROSS DELLENGER: Yeah, I think the group of Big Ten presidents are the ones that he works for them. And they shut down, canceled football. And that was something that, as you said, was just-- it was up and down.
His tenure kind of started on a very low, right, with the pandemic, and the shutdown, and all that stuff. And maybe his managing style, that kind of rubbed some athletic directors and such the wrong way. It started on the low, and then it kept climbing, and then it probably hit its peak when he helped lead the expansion of USC and UCLA and then signed, right, a $1 billion a year TV contract that is the richest ever signed in college sports history.
So it was up and down. I think there's probably-- honestly, there's probably a lot of people in college athletics that are not unhappy with Kevin Warren leaving college athletics. I think there's probably a lot of people, and a lot of commissioners, a lot of people in the CFP commissioner room, mainly based on the, as you mentioned, the alliance and the negotiations over CFP playoff-- expanded playoff-- that are not unhappy to see him leave. You know, and I think there's some ADs, specifically in his league, not unhappy to see him leave.
I think there was frustration with Kevin Warren in college athletics, with college athletics from his vantage point. He was a pro guy. I think like a lot of people, like we said earlier, gets into college athletics and kind of says, what? What? It operates this way? Why?
Where is the contracts and the regulation? And where is the one commissioner leadership? And college athletics doesn't have any of that. And I think that frustrated him a lot.
And it was probably a big reason why he wanted to get back to professional sports. And this is no surprise-- obviously, ESPN reported about it a couple of weeks ago that this was probably coming. But even before that, he has had a few interviews with pro teams over the last probably year-ish.
DAN WETZEL: But he was under contract with the Big Ten, so we know they wouldn't tamper like that.
ROSS DELLENGER: Speaking of his contract, right, he's entering in the fourth year-- he was entering in the fourth year of a five-year contract, had not been extended. Something to note.
DAN WETZEL: Oh, maybe he was out.