The presidents of the ten Big East schools have been widely criticized in the past month or so for not hiring a commissioner sooner, including by yours truly. The new league officially begins on July 1, just five days away. Well after many weeks of possible candidates, interviews, and deliberations, the presidents have finally made their pick. According to this report initially filed by Bloomberg News and confirmed by the Chicago Tribune, Val Ackerman will be the first commissioner of the rebooted Big East.
Ackerman is more than qualified for the position. In 1996 she became the first president of the WNBA. In 2005 she was named president of USA Basketball and continues to serve on several International Basketball Federation committees. Prior to that, she worked as a lawyer with the NBA. As an undergraduate at Virginia, she played and started on the women’s basketball team. She earned her JD at UCLA. Most recently, Ackerman worked as a consultant for the NCAA and conducted a study on how to improve women’s basketball at the collegiate level. Her white paper on the subject has been met with critical praise. In it, she made several strong recommendations to change the women’s game and tournament, including moving Final Four games from Sunday/Tuesday to Friday/Sunday as well as having two Regional sites instead of the standard four.
Val Ackerman has a long history of bringing insightful, nuanced thinking to the table and is not afraid of recommending change. The Big East will need this innovative mentality as it heads to uncharted territory. The TV deal is taken care of, so aside from scheduling to next big item on the agenda is ensuring the Big East tournament will continue to take place at Madison Square Garden for as long as possible. Ackerman will need to fend off the ACC and well as appease the suits at the Garden in accomplishing this. Plus, if the seemingly unthinkable happens and the ACC does end up playing their tournament at MSG, she will need to come up with a unique solution in order to preserve the Big East tournament as a special event.
Oh, and the school presidents are officially off the hook.