This article was updated Jan. 12, 2023 at 11:19 a.m. to include a statement from the Chicago Bears.
Kevin Warren, commissioner of the Big Ten since January 2020, will leave his position to become president and CEO of the NFL’s Chicago Bears.
NFL insider Ian Rapoport broke the news via Twitter Thursday morning, and a statement by the Bears confirmed the news. Warren’s successor is currently unnamed.
“I am honored and recognize the responsibility bestowed upon me to lead the Chicago Bears during this exciting and pivotal time for the franchise,” Warren said in a statement released by the Bears. “I look forward to building on the rich tradition that started with George Halas and connecting with the unique and vibrant fanbase in Chicago. I join the Chicago Bears with gratitude and drive to carry out and build upon the legacy and spirit of this founding franchise and my predecessors.”
Since January 2020, Warren navigated the Big Ten’s COVID-19 response early in his tenure, famously canceling the 2020 Big Ten football season. The conference later changed course on the decision, opting for an abbreviated season and disallowing most fans from watching games in-person at Big Ten stadiums.
Emerging from the pandemic, Warren oversaw the expansion of the conference to include USC and UCLA, two programs expected to join the conference in 2024. As Michigan and the larger Big Ten prepare for the expansion — one that will likely include restructured divisions and schedules, along with increased travel for teams in season — it will do so without Warren’s guidance.
“Kevin is a man of integrity, respect and excellence, all of which are critical core values of the Chicago Bears, and we welcome his perspective and diverse thought to lead this storied organization,” Chicago Bears chairman George H. McCaskey said in the same statement. “He is a proven leader who has many times stepped outside of his comfort zone to challenge status quo for unconventional growth and prosperity. ”
Warren’s signing with the Bears isn’t his first foray into NFL management. Most recently, Warren worked for the Minnesota Vikings and rose through the ranks to become their chief operating officer from 2015 to 2019, before leaving for the Big Ten commissioner job.
Changes facing the Wolverines’ athletic department continue to pile up. Whether the emergence of name, image and likeness (NIL) programs throughout the NCAA landscape, the Big Ten’s new media rights deal or added use of the transfer portal, rampant changes have kept Michigan Athletics on its toes.
But Warren’s departure will arguably mark the biggest change of all: a new person overseeing Michigan’s conference as soon as the Big Ten hires a replacement.