NEW YORK — The newly reconstituted Big East Conference hired former WNBA president Val Ackerman, a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, as its commissioner Wednesday.
Ackerman, 53, was the founding president of the WNBA and also was the first female president of USA Basketball, with both the men’s and women’s teams winning gold medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. She was most recently a consultant for the NCAA, and is an adjunct professor at Columbia University.
The Big East will be headquartered in New York City and begin official operations on July 1. Terms of Ackerman’s deal were not immediately announced.
“The Big East is incredibly fortunate to have Val Ackerman lead us into this exciting new chapter for our conference,” Providence College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley said in a statement. “Val is exactly what the Big East needs: She embodies the highest personal and professional values of the sports industry, and is a hard-charging and innovative leader who can shepherd the conference to continued success.”
The revamped conference announced in March that it would include the Big East’s so-called “Catholic 7” basketball schools Georgetown, DePaul, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova as well as Creighton from the Missouri Valley Conference, and Butler and Xavier from the Atlantic-10.
The Big East had tasked executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates to find its first commissioner. Former Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe also served as a consultant to the league as it prepared for its first season.
Ackerman said in a statement that she was “honored” to have “this incredible opportunity” and said the conference has a simple mission.
“To continue and enhance the Big East’s legacy of intense competition, spirited rivalries and unparalleled achievement,” she said, “not only in college basketball, but in all intercollegiate sports.”
When the Big East unveiled its reformation as a 10-member league, it also announced a 12-year deal with Fox Sports that is worth about $500 million.
The schools will also compete together in sports other than basketball, adding associate members in some. The conference is also assuming the old Big East’s lease agreement for its men’s postseason tournament at Madison Square Garden.
“As the new Big East gets started, long-range vision is our top priority,” Xavier athletic director Greg Christopher said. “Val’s experience stands out on that front, and she will provide strong leadership in the future. I look forward to working with Val to build the Big East into a preeminent Division I conference.”
Ackerman was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011, and is the current U.S. representative for the International Basketball Federation. She’s also a board member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
She began her sports management career in 1988 with the NBA, serving as staff attorney, special assistant to Commissioner David Stern and vice president of business affairs before leading the WNBA from 1996-2005.
“I congratulate the Big East for making such an inspired choice in Val Ackerman,” Stern said. “I had the pleasure of working alongside Val for many years, including the period in which she transformed the WNBA from a mere concept into a thriving basketball league.”
Ackerman, a New Jersey native, was a four-year starter on Virginia’s basketball team, and played professionally in France for one year before earning a law degree from UCLA.
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