Big Ten Goes Outside The Box To Fill Commissioner Role; Former MLB Exec Tony Petitti Has Major Digital Chops

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The Big Ten conference is hiring former MLB COO Tony Petitti as its new commissioner. That news comes from ESPN college football reporter Pete Thamel.

The Big Ten needed a new commissioner after Kevin Warren left the role for a job with the Chicago Bears.

Most people probably aren’t familiar with Petitti as a long-time “behind the scenes” guy. He’s originally from Queens, New York and previously served as Major League Baseball’s chief operating officer.

He succeeded Rob Manfred as COO when Manfred became the league’s commissioner in 2015. Prior to that, the league hired him to help launch MLB Network in 2009.

Tony Petitti, former COO of Major League Baseball, is the new commissioner of the Big Ten conference.
Tony Petitti, former COO of Major League Baseball, is the new commissioner of the Big Ten conference. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

His most recent gig came as co-CEO of The 33rd Team, a website launched by former NFL GM Mike Tannenbaum. Just prior to that, he took a role with Activation Blizzard to run their eGaming department. However, he held that role for less than year.

Petitti is also on the executive committee of the USGA, golf’s governing body in the United States. He currently serves on the Equipment Standards, Finance and Handicap committees.

According to his USGA bio, Petitti “has more than 30 years of executive experience within the sports and entertainment industries, including 11 years at Major League Baseball (MLB) where he ultimately served as deputy  commissioner for Business and Media from 2017-2019.

“The role included oversight for all digital and MLB Network content, broadcast relationships including all linear and digital media sales and rights negotiations, special events, postseason scheduling, international, youth programs and marketing activities.”

Tony Petitti digital experience and business relationship résumé very attractive to Big Ten

The last point is particularly important. The Big Ten’s new media deal kicks in this July. It will be paramount for Petitti to manage the multi-billion dollar agreement spread across three different networks.

Plus, the Big Ten likely envisions Petitti as helping it into the digital age. Although Major League Baseball is often cited as being “behind the times,” their digital presence is not.

And, MLB.TV is arguably the best league streaming service out there. Petitti helped oversee that product for over a decade.

Though he has bounced around a bit over the past couple of years, Petitti seems like a bit of an outside-the-box hire for the Big Ten.

Perhaps that’s exactly what college football needs.

Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @RealDanZak

Written by Dan Zaksheske

Dan began his sports media career at ESPN, where he survived for nearly a decade. Once the Stockholm Syndrome cleared, he made his way to Outkick. He is secure enough in his masculinity to admit he is a cat-enthusiast with three cats, one of which is named “Brady” because his wife wishes she were married to Tom instead of him.

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  1. And this comes on the heels of the Big 12 going “outside the box” when they hired Brett Yormark as commissioner last year. And, holy moley, the Big 12 went from being on the brink of extinction after the departure of Texas and Oklahoma to a league that’s on stabilized and doing “outside the box” things (the concerts at the basketball tournament in Kansas City; the league-wide football pro day at the Cowboys practice facility; potentially reaching out to build the league’s brand in Mexico).

    Now, granted, the B1G already has a big branding advantage compared to most leagues not named the SEC, but that seems to be the trend for major conferences to bring in someone from outside of the college sports landscape to lead their conferences.

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