Big Ten hires ex-MLB exec Tony Petitti as new commissioner

Former Major League Baseball executive Tony Petitti has been named the next commissioner of the Big Ten, the conference announced Wednesday.

Petitti replaces Kevin Warren beginning May 15. Warren, who will become president of the Chicago Bears, is scheduled to leave April 17.

Petitti continues a trend of recent hires to lead the top conferences coming from outside college sports — like Warren, who worked for the Minnesota Vikings before taking over for Jim Delany and becoming the Big Ten’s first Black commissioner in 2019.

The Pac-12 subsequently hired George Kliavkoff, who was an executive for MGM Resorts International. Last year, the Big 12 hired Brett Yormark as commissioner after he had previously run Barclays Center in New York and worked for the Roc Nation talent agency.

Petitti has extensive background in television. A 14-time National Sports Emmy Award winner, Petitti has held senior executive roles at CBS Sports and ABC Sports overseeing rights acquisition deals for a variety of sports leagues and college and professional sports events.

That includes the NCAA Tournament, regular-season men’s basketball, college football, NFL, PGA Tour, the Masters, U.S. Open tennis championships and the Little League World Series. He also played a key role in the creation of the Bowl Championship Series to determine college football’s national champion.

“At this important and transformational time in collegiate athletics, it is truly my great honor to be chosen by the Council of Presidents and Chancellors as the commissioner of the Big Ten Conference,” Petitti said in a statement. “I am energized to work alongside the best athletics directors, coaches, conference staff and board in the country as — together — we continue to elevate the academic and athletic experiences and resources for our 14, soon-to-be 16, world-class universities with nearly 10,000 incredible student-athletes.

“Thank you to the extraordinary people and places that have led me to this next challenge in my career. I am ready to get to work for the Big Ten Conference community.”

Petitti most recently served as an advisor to Liberty Media and The Baupost Group to evaluate sports and media properties.

As deputy commissioner and chief operating officer for Major League Baseball (2014-2020), Petitti was involved in all aspects of MLB including leading broadcast and digital media, special events, MLB Network, MLB social media, consumer products and licensing, marketing, youth development, international, and security. Petitti also participated on MLB’s Competition Committee.

As president and Chief Executive Officer of MLB Network (2008-2014), Petitti led the creation and launch of the network in 50 million homes for what at the time was the largest launch of a cable network.

Prior to MLB, Petitti was the executive vice president of CBS Sports (2002-2008) and was an integral part of the network’s NFL coverage.

Petitti takes over one year before Southern California and UCLA join the Big Ten to make it the first coast-to-coast conference in college sports.

“Tony’s capabilities to navigate the complexities of changing marketplace environments, history as a collaborative leader, and passion for academics and collegiate athletics made him the right leader, at the right time, for the Big Ten Conference,” said Maryland president Darryll J. Pines, who led the Big Ten search.

The Big Ten said recruiting firm TurnkeyZRG conducted a process that delivered a diverse slate of potential candidates from within college athletics, professional sports, media and government.

“We are at a time in collegiate athletics that we need leaders with innovative forethought, the highest principles, and a spirit of fairness and partnership,” Illinois chancellor Robert Jones said. “Tony brings a dynamic style of leadership and impeccable integrity to the conference.”


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