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Minnesota Vikings COO Kevin Warren named next Big Ten Commissioner

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The Jim Phillips era continues at Northwestern.

Minnesota Vikings Press Conference Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Breathe a sigh of relief, Northwestern fans. Jim Phillips is not going anywhere.

The Big Ten officially named 55-year-old former Minnesota Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren as its sixth commissioner Tuesday in a press conference at the conference’s headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois. Mully and Haugh on Chicago’s “670 The Score” first broke the news late Monday on Twitter. Warren is expected to replace Jim Delany in early 2020. Delaney is retiring after a 30-year stint at the helm of the B1G.

Warren, the highest-ranking African-American executive working on the business side for a team in the NFL and the first African-American COO in NFL history, will become the first African-American commissioner of a Power Five conference.

He will have big shoes to fill, as Delany took the Big Ten to new economic heights. Since Delany’s creation of the Big Ten Network, the conference has raked in the cash. According to USA Today, the B1G earned $759 million in revenue in 2018, an increase of almost $250 million from 2017. The schools in turn have benefitted, with NU receiving an estimated $54 million payout last year.

There was plenty of buzz about Northwestern Athletic Director Jim Phillips becoming the conference’s next commissioner. On Monday, Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune even reported Phillips as the frontrunner once the press conference announcement was released.

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro led the commissioner search with Chicago recruiting firm Korn Ferry, which increased speculation about Phillips becoming the new commish given his close relationship with Schapiro.

Wildcat athletics have flourished during Phillips’ nearly 11 years in Evanston. Lacrosse, softball, golf, fencing, soccer, tennis, field hockey, swimming, diving and wrestling have all won team or individual conference or national championships, according to NUSports.com. Notably, football has seen some of the best success in program history with its Big Ten West title and three consecutive bowl victories, and men’s basketball made its first-ever NCAA Tournament.

With the help of benefactor Patrick Ryan, Phillips convinced key coaches Pat Fitzgerald and Kelly Amonte Hiller to stay and overhauled the athletic facilities from a plan originally presented in 2010.

This school year, NU totaled a school-record 265 All-Big Ten academic honorees. The Wildcats led the Big Ten and placed second nationally with 13 teams receiving Academic Progress Rate (APR) Public Recognition Awards, according to NUSports.com.

Phillips received Sports Business Journal’s Athletic Director of the Year award in 2018.