The BIG EAST today announced the appointment of Val Ackerman, a pioneer with nearly 25 years of experience as a high-level sports executive and a passionate advocate for the values of amateur athletics, to serve as the first Commissioner of the newly reconstituted, 10-team BIG EAST Conference. The BIG EAST, which will be headquartered in New York City, will officially commence operations on July 1, 2013.
Ackerman’s vast expertise in the basketball arena runs deep, and her distinguished and accomplished career includes executive posts at the National Basketball Association, the Women’s National Basketball Association and USA Basketball.
A 2011 inductee into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the current U.S. Representative to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), Ackerman is perhaps best known for her nine-year tenure as the founding President of the Women’s National Basketball Association, where she led the initial launch and presided over the rapid expansion of one of the most successful women’s professional sports leagues in history. She further solidified her status as a trailblazing and results-oriented sport executive during her subsequent four-year tenure as the first female President of USA Basketball, which culminated in Gold Medal performances by both the men’s and women’s basketball teams at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
“The BIG EAST is incredibly fortunate to have Val Ackerman lead us into this exciting new chapter for our conference,” said Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., President of Providence College. “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.”
Georgetown University President John DeGioia added, “Val has achieved great success within every element of the sports business industry. With the psyche of a former Division I athlete, she has marshaled operations that directly resulted in elite levels of play, lucrative sponsorship deals, and lasting partnerships. We are thrilled to welcome her to the BIG EAST.”
Ackerman said, “I am honored to be given this incredible opportunity to work in partnership with the ten world-class institutions that are marching ahead under the BIG EAST banner. Our mission is simple – to continue and enhance the BIG EAST legacy of intense competition, spirited rivalries and unparalleled achievement, not only in college basketball, but in all intercollegiate sports.”
“I congratulate the BIG EAST for making such an inspired choice in Val Ackerman,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern. “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. Her experience and intelligence, along with a keen analytic ability, an intense work ethic and a winning management style will help steer the historic BIG EAST Conference to even greater heights.”
In March, the Presidents of Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Villanova and Xavier gathered to announce the formation of the new BIG EAST Conference, along with a series of seminal developments that will help shape the future of the basketball-focused conference.
At the time, it was announced that the 10-member BIG EAST, which will begin play in multiple sports starting with the 2013-2014 academic year, has formed an unprecedented alliance with FOX Sports and its new national cable network, FOX Sports 1. Under the broadcast partnership, FOX Sports will have television rights to a wide range of marquee BIG EAST basketball games, including the annual BIG EAST conference tournament, which will continue to be played in its historic Madison Square Garden home.
Ackerman began her sports management career in 1989 at the National Basketball Association, where she served as staff attorney, special assistant to Commissioner David Stern and Vice President of Business Affairs, prior to leading the WNBA.
She has most recently served as a consultant to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, for which she completed a comprehensive analysis on the state of women's college basketball. She is 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 is also an adjunct professor at Columbia University.
“Val Ackerman has worked alongside college presidents, commissioners, coaches, athletic directors, players, sponsors, broadcasters and the heads of many sports governing bodies to improve the world of amateur athletics,” said Xavier University Athletic Director Greg Christopher. “As the new BIG EAST gets started, long-range vision is our top priority. 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 1 conference."
Added Villanova University men’s basketball coach Jay Wright, “Val possesses an unparalleled understanding of the sport of basketball and knows from experience what it takes to operate a successful league. Her work with the NBA, USA Basketball, NCAA, and WNBA will be a great asset to our conference. We’re excited to welcome Val to the BIG EAST.”
A graduate of the University of Virginia, Ackerman was a four-year starter on the women’s basketball team, one of the first female scholarship student athletes at the institution, and a two-time Academic All-American. She played basketball professionally in France for one year before enrolling at UCLA, where she earned her law degree.