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Vikes COO named Big Ten's 1st black commish

College Football, NFL, NCAA - Other, Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings chief operating officer Kevin Warren was introduced Tuesday at a news conference as the next commissioner of the Big Ten Conference.

Warren, 55, becomes the first black commissioner of a Power 5 conference. He replaces longtime Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who in March announced his plans to retire in 2020 after 30 years with the league.

In March, the Sun Belt Conference hired former Atlantic 10 executive associate commissioner Keith Gill, who became the first black commissioner of a Football Bowl Subdivision conference.

Warren has spent 21 seasons working in the NFL, including the past 14 with the Vikings. He is the highest-ranking black executive working on the business side of an NFL franchise.

"Kevin has been a tremendous leader for the Vikings and he and his family have been passionately and intricately involved in the community, enhancing the lives of so many people. We know the Big Ten and their student-athletes, coaches, and administrators are extremely fortunate to have his leadership, character, and vision, and we wish Kevin and the Warren family all the best. We will work with Kevin and the Vikings management team over the next three months to help us through this transition and process how we want to move forward," Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf said in a statement.

In 2015, Warren was promoted from vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer to chief operating officer of the Vikings. He played a key role in the development of the $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, which opened in 2016 and hosted Super Bowl LII in February 2018. He was a candidate to become president of the Oakland Raiders in 2014.

In 2013, Warren was named a member of the NFL Committee on Workplace Diversity. As COO of the Vikings, he has made promoting women a top priority, with four moving into executive roles. In 2017, the Vikings named Kelly Kleine a college scouting coordinator.

Before joining the Vikings, Warren worked for the international law firm of Greenberg Traurig, spent two seasons with the Detroit Lions as senior vice president of business operations and general counsel from 2001 to '03 and was vice president of player programs and legal counsel of the St. Louis Rams from 1997 to 2001.

A native of Tempe, Arizona, Warren played basketball at Penn and Grand Canyon University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1986. He has an MBA from Arizona State and a juris doctorate degree from the Notre Dame School of Law.

He worked at a law firm with late SEC commissioner Mike Slive and prominent sports attorney Mike Glazier, specializing in the representation of universities charged with NCAA violations.

While attending law school at Notre Dame, he founded Kevin Warren and Associates and represented professional athletes and entertainers. Fighting Irish defensive lineman Chris Zorich was Warren's first client, and he represented NFL players Will Shields and Lake Dawson.

Warren's late father, Morrison Warren Sr., Ph.D., played professional football for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948. His father became the first black president of a major college football bowl game when he was named president of the Fiesta Bowl board of directors in 1982.

His oldest brother, Morrison Warren Jr., was one of the first black scholarship football players at Stanford in the early 1960s.

"I was fortunate to grow up in a family of trailblazers," Warren told The Undefeated in January 2017. "My parents, my grandparents, they have always kind of been pioneers in their own regard."

When Warren was 12, he was struck by a car while riding his bike. He broke his femur and was in a body cast for six months. When doctors told him that he might not be able to play sports, he asked what he could do to help his recovery. His doctors told him to swim.

His parents' home in Phoenix didn't have a pool, and they couldn't afford to build one. So Warren used the $30,000 insurance settlement he received from the driver of the car to build one.

"I'm not supposed to be here," Warren told the Sports Business Journal in February. "I'm so grateful that as a young kid, I realized how fragile life is and how it truly is a gift. I should have died. My classmates should have been going to a funeral to say, 'He was a nice boy, a good athlete, a good student and was fair, but life was cut short.' That should have been the story of Kevin Fulbright Warren. But it wasn't."

Warren and his wife, Greta, have a daughter, Peri, and a son, Powers, who plays football at Mississippi State.

ESPN's Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report.

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