A commissioner within the college football ranks has emerged as a top candidate in the Chicago Bears search for their next head of football operations.
Former NFL executive and current Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren is a finalist for the president/CEO position with the Bears, according to a report from ESPN.
The franchise began a search for a new president after longtime executive Ted Phillips announced in September that he intends to retire at the end of this season.
The Bears have already conducted an interview with Warren and he is considered a “strong candidate,” the report mentioned.
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Warren was named commissioner of the Big Ten in June 2019. He previously spent 15 years with the Minnesota Vikings, working in various executive roles during his tenure.
He also served as the Rams vice president of football administration, when the franchise was based in St. Louis.
He has a total of 20 years of experience at the professional football level.
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Warren replaced former Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Warren did not have a particularly smooth transition into the commissioner's role, as he faced criticism early on due in large part of his handling of the pandemic.
The Big Ten opted to cancel the entire football season in 2020, before reversing the decision a short time later.
But this year, the conference expanded to add the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins under Warren's leadership.
The Big Ten currently has two teams representing the conference in the College Football Playoff. The second-ranked Michigan Wolverines are in Atlanta for a rematch of last year's semifinal against No. 1 Georgia, while the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes travel to Glendale, Arizona, for a matchup with No. 3 TCU.
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The ESPN report revealed that a lack of conversations surrounding a contract extension for Warren may also be motivating him to depart for the NFL.
Warren is not expected to be in attendance at the Peach Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl.
A Big Ten spokesperson said in a statement that Warren's focus remains on the conference, noting, “The commissioner remains focused on the Big Ten Conference, its 14 member institutions and over 10,000 student-athletes in both regular season and postseason play.”
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The search is expected to conclude in the coming weeks.