B1G Commissioner Kevin Warren discusses first year on the job, embracing 'healthy tension' of navigating football season
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren’s first year on the job was far from an easy one, headlined by what was seen as the conference’s uneven handling of COVID-19.
The on-then-off-then-on nature of the Big Ten football season highlighted a difficult first season for Warren, who received criticism for his handling of the conference’s football schedule. Warren defended the timing of the football schedule, which started later than other conferences such as the ACC and the SEC and featured only Big Ten games.
In an interview with Pat Forde of SI, Warren went into detail about his decision to delay the season after originally having shelved play in 2020:
There are concerns I had, about myocarditis. Being a father of two in their early 20s, including one who is a student-athlete (Paris Warren played at Mississippi State, graduated in 3 1/2 years and is now in the transfer portal), I want all our young people safe and healthy. But our young people are tough. I knew student-athletes were special in the Big Ten, but to see them perform the way they did academically and athletically, and to navigate social justice issues and not have enjoyed their normal routines, to go out and compete? They were great.
Yeah, it was the right thing to do. I feel better that we took our time. Us pausing the season was not easy—the easy thing would have been to just go forward and kind of hope it worked out. We had the strength to pause and improve our testing methods and operations, and to really listen to our medical subcommittee and our leaders.
Was it painful? Oh yeah, it was painful. But I think that healthy tension made us better as a conference. I can look any parent in the eye and tell them we paused for the right reasons and did the best job we could to keep their student-athletes healthy and safe.
The handling of the season led to criticism from the media, fans, and even university officials who saw other conferences playing and lamented that the Big Ten stayed off the field. Revenue, and more aptly lost revenue, certainly had something to do with the angst from Big Ten member officials.
While Warren, right or wrong, has born the brunt of criticism for how the Big Ten handled the season due to COVID-19, there is no denying that his first year as the conference’s commissioner has brought on unforeseen obstacles. Challenges that no one this time a year ago imagined having to navigate:
Disappointment isn’t the word. I knew when I accepted this job, and we had an iconic leader like Jim (Delany) who was in that position for 31 years—I was handed the baton on Jan. 2. On March 11, we had a pandemic. In any profession, to be 70 days into a new job [before the pandemic shut down sports], this was going to be demanding.There are still some staff people that I haven’t seen in person—some people we hired in February that were supposed to start in March. There are other staff people I work with every single day, who have a critical position in our organization, that I hadn’t seen until the (Big Ten) championship game. There are other people who haven’t been in our office since March 11.
To read the full interview by Forde with Warren, click here.