Jim Delany’s departure from the Big Ten has been accelerated.
The South Orange native will retire as Big Ten commissioner on Jan. 1, 2020, the conference announced on Tuesday during an introductory press conference for new commissioner Kevin Warren.
Warren, the Minnesota Vikings’ chief operating officer, will start with the league on Sept. 16 of this year and work with Delany during a transition period. Delany’s 30 years with the conference will then end at the end of the year.
Delany was not in attendance at the press conference, held at Big Ten headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois. The St. Benedict’s High graduate previously said he planned to retire when his contract expired in June 2020. Delany has been Big Ten commissioner since 1989.
Warren, 55, will be the first African American commissioner of a Power 5 conference. He was a surprise pick, as most speculation centered around Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips or other candidates with conference or college sports connections. While Warren lives inside the conference footprint, he has no apparent ties to the league beyond assisting Minnesota in its search process to hire current athletics director Mark Coyle.
Warren is an Arizona native who played basketball and earned his undergraduate degree at Grand Canyon University after spending his freshman year at Penn. Warren, who also has an MBA from Arizona State and a law degree from Notre Dame, has spent his career either practicing law or working for an NFL franchise.
Warren did work at Bond, Schoeneck and King, a Kansas-based firm that specializes in NCAA violations, early in his career, where he was colleagues with late former SEC commissioner Mike Slive. The firm served as outside counsel for Rutgers when it was under investigation by the NCAA following the end of Kyle Flood’s tenure as football coach.
Warren also ran his own sports agency and worked for the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions before joining law firm Greenberg Traurig, where he assisted Springfield resident Zygi Wilf and his partners when they purchased the Vikings in 2005. Warren then joined the franchise that year and became the first African-American COO in NFL history in 2015. Warren is also currently of counsel with firm Norton Rose Fulbright, according to his personal website.
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