Val Ackerman The Right Pick To Head The New Big EastPosted by mlemaire on June 27th, 2013
In a landscape where powerful state universities and brand-name colleges feverishly chase the big TV money pouring out of college football, the schools in the new Big East announced to the rest of the conferences that things were going to be different in their league when they hired former WNBA president Val Ackerman to be the conference’s first commissioner Wednesday. The schools in the Big East don’t really care about college football money, because their conference was built on the principle of basketball above all else. The “Catholic 7” defected from the Big East in December 2012 primarily because they felt their football-first partners didn’t have their best interests in mind, and you shouldn’t need to review recent NCAA Tournament results to understand that strengthening the conference’s basketball profile was the driving motivation behind the additions of Creighton, Xavier, and Butler.
If the then-Big East and now-American Athletic Conference hired former CBS Sports Executive Mike Aresco to land a lucrative television deal that would help the conference keep up with the Jones’, then the new Big East hired Ackerman because they saw the Jones’ adding a guest house and decided they would rather pick up their basketball and head to the playground instead. Let’s be clear, the schools in the Big East didn’t lark out on their own for any altruistic reasons and they aren’t exactly rebelling against the establishment because they need television revenue to survive just as badly as the schools and conferences do. They just recognized that the path to enriching themselves involved becoming the biggest and baddest basketball conference in the country, and the 12-year deal from Fox Sports that followed the arrival of Creighton, Xavier, and Butler proves that in 500 million different ways.
But the Big East’s basketball branding is just getting started and there is another $100 million on the table if the conference adds two more schools and continues to strengthen its basketball profile, which is why they preferred a new commissioner with basketball experience over television experience. And by finding and hiring Ackerman, the conference hit a home run in the basketball experience department. Ackerman is a basketball lifer. She is one of the most accomplished women’s basketball players in the history of the sport, she has been an attorney at the NBA and a special assistant for NBA commissioner David Stern, she has served as president for USA Basketball, she is on the Board of Governors for the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Board of Directors for the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, and she is the U.S. delegate to the Central Board of FIBA.
You would be hard pressed to find someone as well-connected as Val Ackerman in the sport of basketball and that is exactly what the schools of the Big East wanted. There is still a lot of uncertainty and question marks surrounding the fledgling conference, especially considering Fox Sports 1 is brand new and trying to compete with ESPN and some of the programs in this big and bad basketball conference aren’t very big or bad at all (we are looking at you DePaul and Seton Hall). The conference already has a television deal in place and has established a foothold in a football-dominated business, now it just needs someone who will turn that foothold into stability, and that’s where Ackerman comes in.