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Report: Chicago Bears to hire Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren as new President and CEO

On3 imageby:Nick Schultz01/12/23

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Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After three years as Big Ten commissioner, Kevin Warren is heading back to the NFL. The Chicago Bears are set to hire him as their new President and CEO, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

“Sources: The #Bears are expected to name Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren as their new president and CEO,” tweeted Rapoport. “A major hire for the organization and for Warren, who spent time in the NFL prior to college football as a top executive for the #Vikings.”

Later, the Bears confirmed the news, tweeting, “We have named Kevin Warren as our next President & CEO.”

Warren is replacing Ted Phillips, who announced his retirement at season’s end after 39 seasons with the team. Phillips played a critical role in turning the Bears into one of the most valuable franchises in the NFL, coming in as the sixth-highest valued team in the league in August, according to Sportico. He also got the ball rolling on the Bears’ potential move to Arlington Heights, Illinois — a Chicago suburb — where they hope to build a new stadium.

It marks a return to the NFL for Warren, who also worked for the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions in the NFC North during his career as an executive. He inherits a franchise that just wrapped up its first season with a new football operations regime with Ryan Poles at general manager and Matt Eberflus as head coach. Chicago ended the year with the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft after a 3-14 season and will have the most salary cap space in the NFL this offseason with a projected $120 million available, according to Spotrac.

Inside Kevin Warren’s tenure as Big Ten commissioner

Warren joined the Big Ten in 2019 as commissioner-elect and officially started his tenure as commissioner in January 2020 — two months before the COVID-19 pandemic shook not only the sports landscape, but the entire world.

As the uncertainty around the pandemic rolled into football season, Warren opted to cancel the 2020 Big Ten season. However, as other conferences decided to play out their campaigns, the league moved to implement a conference-only eight-game schedule. That year, Ohio State made it to the College Football Playoff behind, appropriately, Justin Fields, who’s gearing up for his third season in the NFL with the Bears.

Despite the tough start to his tenure, Warren helped put the Big Ten in position to be one of the top conferences in college football. The league recently signed an seven-year, $7 billion media rights deal and is preparing to add Pac-12 powerhouses USC and UCLA to the league in 2024. That means the Big Ten will move to 16 teams that year, keeping pace with the SEC, which is also moving to 16 teams in the future.

In addition, the Big Ten had two teams in this year’s CFP. Michigan was ranked No. 2 to play in the Fiesta Bowl and Ohio State snuck in as the No. 4 team to lock up a spot in the Peach Bowl. News of Warren’s candidacy broke two days before the games.

Warren has an impressive background as an NFL executive

Before the Big Ten, Warren spent 14 years with the Vikings from 2005-19, starting out as the executive vice president of legal affairs before becoming their chief operating officer from 2015-19. In his role, he helped oversee the construction of U.S. Bank Stadium, and that background is important as he takes over the Bears as the gear up to build a new stadium.

Warren also has a Super Bowl ring from his time as the St. Louis Rams, where he served as vice president of football administration in 2000. He left after that year to become the Lions’ senior vice president of business operations and general council from 2001-03.

On3’s Stephen Samra contributed to this article.