Student Journalism Q&A with Big Ten Curator Kevin Warren
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren met with student journalists from nine schools for a town hall on sports journalism on Monday, November 1.
Warren spoke on topics: student athlete safety, name, image and likeness, or NIL and conference realignment. He answered journalists’ questions on these topics while discussing the conference’s current outlook and its position for the future. The schools included were Michigan State, Maryland, Penn State, Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio State and Indiana.
Warren – who has never spoken with exclusively large-scale student journalists – said he was keen to meet with student media because of their importance in telling the stories of the Big Ten athletes. In the summer of 2020, The State News spoke with Warren ahead of the cancellation and subsequent reinstatement of college football due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the hour-long discussion, Warren focused on promoting the safety and education of student-athletes. He spoke about issues such as sexual assault prevention and financial literacy in the new era of NIL, which are at the forefront of the Big Ten agenda for years to come. The main goal is to protect Big Ten student-athletes during their studies and to prepare them for success after graduation.
Q: Commissioner Warren, given that four Big Ten institutions have experienced sexual assault scandals in the past decade, what steps is the Big Ten taking to protect student-athletes and prevent college employees to take advantage of it?
A: As you know, I was not there when these unfortunate situations occurred. I know I made it very clear here from a conference point of view that we respect all individuals. We want to make sure we create a very safe environment for our student-athletes to make sure people have a line of communication with the right people on campus. And let them know that they have our support here from the point of view of the conference office, to make sure they understand what we stand for and what we don’t stand for.
We will continually ensure that we have active and open communication and dialogue to create safe spaces. Again, none of our student-athletes on our campuses, at least who compete on our campuses, are professional; they are amateurs. And all of our student-athletes, all of our students like all of you, deserve the right and have earned the right to receive a world-class education in a safe environment. So it is one of my day-to-day priorities to make sure that we are doing all we can at the conference level to make sure that our student-athletes are free from any negative issues that occur in society.
Q: How do you see the new NIL legislature affecting the competitive balance of the conference in the near future? And is there any concern among the Big Ten that this is potentially being used to provide recruiting benefits?
A: I am very supportive of the possibility for our student-athletes to be compensated fairly for their name, image and likeness. I think you all know it’s been … you could feel it’s been a long time coming. I’m also confident that the market will somehow dictate how NIL works. One thing that is always close to my heart is that we should have federal legislation so that we don’t have all this different mosaic between different states. So there should be a federal law, as you know, that hasn’t happened yet.
But I am very supportive of NIL. I am happy for our student-athletes who have had the opportunity to monetize their name, image and likeness and who will always support it. I am not in favor of paying to play. I think that’s where you have to draw the line between amateurism and professionalism. So we need to make sure that we guard against this so that our student-athletes can have the opportunity to enjoy a world-class education.
Q: With so many moving elements in terms of conference realignment, what do you think are the criteria for being a Big Ten school?
A: I think from the seat I’m sitting in it’s really important that we recognize the importance to our young men and women who compete for our institutions as student-athletes, which our schools were designed to provide. a platform to educate our students – athletes. And they are not student-athletes. It’s not that you come to a Big Ten institution and play sports and “Oh, yeah by the way, when you get there you might go to a few classes”. It’s just the opposite. And so it’s very important that we keep that in mind that we keep that as one of our cornerstones of what made the Big Ten, the Big Ten from the start. And what continues to make the Big Ten the Big Ten is that academics have to be paramount here. Yes our student-athletes are talented, yes they are some of the best in the country, certainly as well as the best in the world, but we cannot lower our demands from our academic standards at all.
So I think the most important thing is that we have to continually be attentive. No matter how much fanfare there is and with our grades, balls, tournaments and national championships, it is because we are a conference of 14 amazing schools in higher education. arena. And it’s important that we make sure that we are focused every day on creating an atmosphere for our student-athletes to get a world-class education.
Q: Regarding diversity, what is the conference’s reaction to the lack of diversity in head coach recruitments, especially in sports where there are more people of color?
A: I naturally think, obviously, that diversity, equity and inclusion are important to me. I agree that from my perspective we have only had five commissioners in the history of the Big Ten conference. I have their portraits on my wall. Five people since 1895 have held this post; I’m the sixth and none of them look like me. And not just here in the conference, but in all of the Power Five conferences. So I recognize that it is important for me to make sure that I am doing everything possible to perform at the highest level in order to provide opportunities for women and people of color in these positions.
I’m glad that in this last offseason, the hiring cycle, you’re looking at the number of coaches that have been hired from a men’s perspective, I believe we hired four coaches. Ben Johnson in Minnesota, Micah Shrewsberry in Penn State and Mike Woodson in Indiana; these three individuals are all black men. And then we had Marisa Moseley at the University of Wisconsin, a woman of color.
Q: Since you took over, the state of Michigan has made a number of administrative changes in hopes of changing the culture of the campus, from hiring President Samuel Stanley Jr. to athletic director Alan Haller. From your perspective, how do you think MSU handled the situation with the intention of establishing a safer environment for student-athletes?
A: Dude, I think a good thing about Michigan State and some of our other schools there, we focus on making our environment safe for our student-athletes. There have been some very difficult, difficult and very sad issues that have arisen. But every day, I know, speaking on behalf of the people of the state of Michigan, I know they are doing all they can. I trust the leadership there under President Stanley and Alan Haller. They want to make sure that they create a world-class environment for their student-athletes, that they keep their student-athletes safe and healthy, and that they are supported there. So I really enjoyed working with President Stanley and Alan Haller and many coaches from Michigan State University.
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