Big East hires Val Ackerman as chief

The new Big East has hired former WNBA president Val Ackerman as its first commissioner, the conference said Wednesday.

Ackerman emerged as the leading candidate in the past few weeks as the Big East looked for a leader in the days before it officially becomes a new conference on July 1.

The 10 schools were told of the hire Tuesday night. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"The Big East is incredibly fortunate to have Val Ackerman lead us into this exciting new chapter for our conference," Providence College president Rev. Brian J. Shanley said in a statement. "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."

ESPN.com reported Friday that Ackerman had entered into negotiations to become the next commissioner.

The new Big East consists of current Big East schools Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, St. John's, Marquette and DePaul along with Creighton (Missouri Valley), Butler and Xavier (A-10).

The league has a television deal with Fox Sports for next season and will play an 18-game round-robin schedule.

Ackerman was in Switzerland at FIBA meetings this week but is due back stateside this weekend. She said in a statement that she was "honored" to have "this incredible opportunity" and said the conference has a simple mission.

"To continue and enhance the Big East's legacy of intense competition, spirited rivalries and unparalleled achievement," she said, "not only in college basketball, but in all intercollegiate sports."

The Big East recently had centered on candidates outside of college athletics in Ackerman, Major League Baseball's Tim Brosnan and Boston Celtics president Rich Gotham, a Providence graduate. The Big East wanted to follow the model of the Pac-12, which hired Larry Scott, who had been head of women's professional tennis.

Ackerman just finished writing an extensive report for the NCAA on the state of women's basketball and changes that could increase the sport's popularity, as well as scoring and scheduling during the busy calendar.

Former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe had been acting as a consultant once the seven schools decided to form their own league. Each athletic director was assigned a sport to schedule and help organize while the presidents searched for a commissioner.

There is no staff for the new league, but the offices will be in New York. The new Big East will continue to hold its men's basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Ackerman, 53, was the first president of the WNBA, serving from 1996 to 2005 before stepping down. She was a former player at Virginia and went to law school at UCLA, practicing for two years before going into sports. She was once a staff attorney for the NBA, special assistant to commissioner David Stern and vice president of business affairs before leading the WNBA from 1996-2005. She was also instrumental in the USA women's basketball organization and was the first female president of USA Basketball from 2005-08. She's on the board of USA Basketball and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

"I congratulate the Big East for making such an inspired choice in Val Ackerman," Stern said. "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."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.