The Big Ten Conference announced on Thursday that it has hired Tony Petitti as its new commissioner, effective July 1, 2023. Petitti will succeed Kevin Warren, who will step down after two tumultuous years at the helm of the league.
Petitti, 62, brings a wealth of experience in sports media and business to the Big Ten. He is currently the president of sports and entertainment for Activision Blizzard, a leading video game company.
Prior to that, he served as the deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of Major League Baseball from 2014 to 2020. He also held various executive roles at CBS Sports, MLB Network and ABC Sports.
Petitti said he was honored and humbled to be chosen as the next commissioner of the Big Ten, one of the most prestigious and influential conferences in college sports.
“I have always admired the Big Ten for its excellence in academics and athletics, its rich history and traditions, and its passionate fan base,” Petitti said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the presidents and chancellors, the athletic directors, the coaches, the student-athletes and the staff to build on the Big Ten’s legacy and lead it into a bright future.”
Petitti will inherit a conference that faced many challenges and controversies under Warren’s tenure, which began in January 2020. Warren was criticized for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the postponement and eventual resumption of the fall football season in 2020.
He also faced backlash from some schools and fans for his decision to expand the conference to 16 teams by adding Oklahoma and Texas in 2021. Warren said he made those moves in the best interest of the conference and its long-term stability.
Warren congratulated Petitti on his appointment and said he was confident that he would be a great leader for the Big Ten.
“Tony is a visionary and a strategic thinker who has a proven track record of success in sports and entertainment,” Warren said in a statement. “He is well-respected by his peers and colleagues across the industry and has a deep understanding of the changing landscape of college sports. I am proud of what we accomplished together at the Big Ten and I wish him all the best in his new role.”
The Big Ten’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) unanimously approved Petitti’s hiring after a nationwide search that involved input from various stakeholders. The COP/C chair, Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro, said Petitti was the ideal candidate for the job.
“Tony impressed us with his vision, his values and his experience,” Schapiro said in a statement. “He has a strong background in media rights, marketing, digital innovation and fan engagement, which are all essential for the future growth and success of the Big Ten. He also shares our commitment to academic excellence, student-athlete welfare and diversity, equity and inclusion. We are delighted to welcome him to the Big Ten family.”
Final Thoughts: Tony Petitti Hired as Big Ten Commissioner
The hiring of Tony Petitti as the next commissioner of the Big Ten Conference is a significant move that could bring a new era of leadership and stability to the league.
Petitti’s extensive experience in sports media and business, as well as his proven track record of success in various high-profile roles, make him an ideal candidate for the job. His leadership could help the Big Ten overcome some of the challenges and controversies that have plagued it in recent years.
Petitti’s tenure at Activision Blizzard, where he currently serves as president of sports and entertainment, has been marked by innovative and successful efforts to expand the reach of video game content and engage with fans in new ways.
His experience at Major League Baseball, CBS Sports, MLB Network, and ABC Sports has also given him a broad perspective on the sports industry and the challenges facing major sports leagues in the digital age.
One of the biggest challenges that Petitti will face as the Big Ten commissioner is rebuilding trust and confidence in the conference among its members, fans, and stakeholders. Warren’s tenure was marred by controversy and criticism, particularly around his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the conference’s expansion to 16 teams.
Petitti will need to work closely with the Big Ten’s presidents and chancellors, athletic directors, coaches, student-athletes, and staff to address these issues and chart a new course for the conference.
At the same time, Petitti will need to stay attuned to the rapidly changing landscape of college sports, where name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights, conference realignment, and other factors are reshaping the landscape. He will need to be a strong advocate for the Big Ten’s interests while also working collaboratively with other conferences and national organizations to shape the future of college sports in a positive and sustainable way.
Overall, Petitti’s hiring as the next Big Ten commissioner is a positive development for the conference and the broader college sports landscape. His deep experience, strategic thinking, and vision for the future could help the Big Ten overcome its recent challenges and build a brighter future for its student-athletes, fans, and stakeholders.
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