COLUMN: Warren Media Day Performance Confirms Sad Reality for Big Ten

Either Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren did and said everything the 14 presidents and/or chancellors in the league wanted or he’s incapable of providing leadership. Either option is terrible for the conference.

By Matt Stevens -- IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst

July 22, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS -- In just the first few minutes of Kevin Warren’s 45-minute address it became obvious the Big Ten Conference’s commissioner had two plans for his media appearance Thursday morning.

First, and most importantly, Warren was either instructed (by the 14 members of the Council of Presidents and Chancellors) to intentionally not answer any questions or Warren himself was just incapable of doing so. And following his near hour-long waste of time session, both are on the table for debate at this point.

Secondly, and of course less important, was to thank the media member for their direct question immediately following his non-answer that meandered between nowhere and confusion.

The major piece of news (or coherent thought) that made it from Warren’s lips to the microphone in front of him was to announce that former Wisconsin head coach and athletics director Barry Alvarez would be serving as the advisor for the league for football-related matters. This was confirmed in reporting by the Wisconsin State Journal months ago and long before Alvarez announced his official retirement.

That’s it folks. That’s all the meat that was on that early morning bone. Suddenly in the massive environment of Lucas Oil Stadium, you could’ve heard a pin drop was media members (and I assume viewers at home on Big Ten Network) were practically all saying “Is that it?” or “Does he know that’s not an answer?”

Oh, he knew. Warren knew very well the words coming out of his mouth didn’t signify anything close to the definition of common sense.

You want to know about COVID-19 protocols for games? The league doesn’t have a chief medical officer or a plan to handle whether games will be rescheduled for considered forfeits. That’s right if you’re scoring at home, Warren essentially claimed that because there was no instructor, the homework can’t be completed. But he assured that plan would be formulated before the first game when Nebraska plays Illinois on Aug. 28. For those of you scoring at home, that’s just 37 days from now. The Big Ten Conference had all summer to come up with a plan of action. They watched the Southeastern Conference commissioner use the word ‘forfeit’ and the world, as we know it, didn’t end.  So, good to know college procrastination still exists.

You want some guidance on conference realignment? Don’t look to the Big Ten or Kevin Warren. The figurehead leader of the league wants to sit around and wait a few months.

“I've already started this summer of having these conversations within our internal Big Ten family in regards to their viewpoints from college football expansion, gathering information, as they called it, kind of the next couple of months are really gathering information to decide what we feel is in the best interests,” Warren said after he made sure to call the question “a wonderful question”.

Great. So, while the SEC reportedly seems interested in a power grab involving Texas and Oklahoma, the Big Ten wants to slow play its hand and potentially be forced into an uncomfortable outcome after other power conferences exert some forward thinking. I wonder if Warren has the experience to look back on an instance where he used that strategy and it didn’t go well (cough, coronavirus, cough)?

When given the opportunity to admit what he’s learned after getting his head dunked in practically every public relations toilet possible in the God awful year of 2020, Warren decided that wasn’t necessary.

“What really is the essence of regret and what does that really mean? I don't have any regrets,” Warren said. “I mean, quite naturally, we all look back over our lives and are there things we wish we would have maybe done a little bit differently, but if I had the chance to do it all over last year, I would do, make the same decisions that we made, because one of the things that I've always tried to focus on, and you heard me say it today, is making sure we keep our student-athletes at the center of all of our decisions, athletically, academically, regarding college football playoff expansion, relationships with our media partners, relationships with our bowl partners, all of those different things. If we put them at the epicenter of our decisions we're going to be okay. And we did that last year at the Big Ten.”

There are two sad realities about Warren’s performance Thursday morning. A lot of people who work in the conference office in Rosemont, Ill., will tell their boss they thought he did an excellent job. And that’ll probably come after Warren hears glowing reviews from his 14 bosses among the league’s  COP/C. Warren did and said exactly what they wanted him to do and that’s why this sport, the largest and most important revenue sport by miles, continues to lag behind other Power Five Conference in confidence, superiority and leadership.

(Cover photo courtesy Lettermen Row)

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