LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren has spoken to the Chicago Bears about the vacancy at the top of the organization and is a candidate to become the team’s next president and CEO, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because neither the Bears nor the conference or Warren were making the discussions public.
Warren’s resume includes multiple stops in the NFL and the Bears are searching for a president to replace the retiring Ted Phillips.
“We have not set a timeline for announcing Ted Phillip’s successor,” the team said. “Our search team has cast a wide net, spoken to many outstanding candidates and looks forward to introducing our next President and CEO at the process’s conclusion.”
The Big Ten released a statement, saying Warren “regularly receives unique opportunities and request for his expertise from leaders across a variety of industries, ranging from professional sports ownership groups to private equity firms.”
The statement said Warren remained focused on the Big Ten, its 14 member schools and more than 10,000 athletes.
Warren has spoken with several professional teams going through transitions at the top, including the Denver Broncos, Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves during his tenure as Big Ten commissioner, the person familiar with the situation told AP.
Warren became the first Black commissioner of a Power Five conference when the Big Ten hired him in June 2019 out of the Minnesota Vikings’ front office to replace the retiring Jim Delany.
Warren drew sharp criticism early in his tenure when the league called off the 2020 fall football season because of the pandemic. The Big Ten reversed course five weeks later and played an abbreviated schedule after receiving guarantees that athletes could be tested for the virus every day and that there would be screening protocols for virus-related heart ailments for those who tested positive.
There have also been some big wins for the Big Ten in recent months
In July, the Big Ten announced Southern California and UCLA will join the conference in 2024, giving it a coast-to-coast footprint. A month later, the conference landed about $7 billion in media rights deals with FOX, CBS and NBC to share the rights to football and basketball games. The contracts go into effect in 2023 and expire in 2030.
Warren worked in the NFL for 20 years, doing stints with the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions before settling in with Minnesota in 2005. He was the Vikings’ chief operating officer from 2015 to 2019.
Warren played a big role in their construction of U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016. The Bears see it as a model for their potential new home in suburban Arlington Heights, Ill., if their purchase of a 326-acre property is completed and if they decide to move there.
AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.
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