Val Ackerman has agreed to become commissioner of the Big East conference, adding to a basketball-heavy resume that includes being the first president of the Women’s National Basketball Association, a person with direct knowledge of the hiring said.
The 53-year-old Ackerman was chosen by the presidents of the conference’s 10 universities, according to the person, who requested anonymity because the contract hasn’t been signed.
Other female conference commissioners include Bernadette McGlade of the Atlantic 10 and Robin Harris, executive director of the Ivy League.
NBA Commissioner David Stern, who appointed Ackerman to start up the women’s league, praised her choice as conference chief.
“She brings all of that experience with intelligence, a keen analytical ability, an intense work ethic and a winning management style,” Stern said in an e-mail.
Ackerman didn’t immediately return an e-mail or voice message at home seeking comment on the Big East job.
The Big East is set to begin business in its new form in five days. It is comprised largely of Catholic colleges and universities from the old Big East, which is now called the American Athletic Conference.
The league, which retained the rights to the Big East name, includes the so-called Catholic 7, whose presidents voted to leave because they said football-related revenue was becoming too important. The Big East started in 1979 with a focus on basketball.
The holdover schools are Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette and DePaul. They will be joined by Butler, Creighton and Xavier.
Ackerman ran the WNBA from 1996 to 2005, when she stepped down. She was a staff attorney for the NBA, according to ESPN, and served as the first female president of USA Basketball from 2005 to 2008. She’s a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame board of trustees.
A basketball player at the University of Virginia prior to getting her law degree at UCLA, Ackerman released a report this month commissioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association on the state of women’s basketball and possible changes the sport could make to improve popularity and efficiency.
Linda Bruno was the first female commissioner of a major college conference, serving as head of the Atlantic 10 from 1994 to 2008, and was replaced by McGlade. Carolyn Schlie Femovich has been commissioner of the Patriot League since 1999 and Brenda Weare led the Northeast Conference from 2006 until her death in 2009. In 2011, Amy Huchthausen was chosen commissioner of the America East, and Harris has led the Ivy League since 2009.
“It’ll be great to have another female join the commissioner ranks, but first and foremost, her extensive leadership experience and accomplishments give her a perspective that will position the Big East for continued success,” Huchthausen, a former Big East intern, said in an e-mail.
The Big East signed a 12-year television contract this year with Fox Sports, a unit of News Corp. (NWSA) The league has agreed to play its season-ending men’s basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York for the next three years.
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