Re-launched Big East poised to name Val Ackerman as new commissioner


Val Ackerman, here in 2003 serving as president of the WNBA, is expected to take over as Big East Commissioner. (BOB CHILD/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Big East, which is scheduled to officially re-launch as a basketball-centric conference July 1, is expected to announce Val Ackerman as its commissioner Wednesday.

A 1981 Virginia graduate, Ackerman, 53, was the first president of the WNBA, which she led from 1996 to 2005, and boasts a résumé rich with achievements as an athlete, lawyer and sports executive.

A four-year starter on Virginia’s women’s basketball team, she earned her law degree at UCLA and served as a staff attorney for the NBA before launching the WNBA. In 2005 she was named the first female president of USA Basketball.

Hired last as a consultant by the NCAA, she recently delivered an in-depth report outlining ways to spark new interest in the women’s college game.

The Big East was formed in 1979 as a league of urban universities. But its membership has been in flux for the past decade, as football-driven members defected for other conferences and were replaced by others. But as the league’s identity and geographic footprint lost coherence, a basketball-centric group of seven, including Georgetown, broke away. Joining the Hoyas were DePaul, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova.

That faction retained the Big East name and added Butler, Creighton and Xavier to form a 10-team league that will start competing in the 2013-14 season. To prepare for that swift launch, the athletic directors of the member schools each took charge of scheduling a specific sport while the search for a commissioner continued.

The league also has signed a broadcast deal with Fox Sports, which on Aug. 17 is debuting its 24-hour cable sports channel, Fox Sports 1, envisioned as a competitor to ESPN.

Liz Clarke currently covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post, she has also covered five Olympic Games, two World Cups and written extensively about college sports, tennis and auto racing.
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