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Big East commissioner embraces critical role
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On August 13, 2013 @ 10:18 pm In Wirenews | Comments Disabled
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK – Val Ackerman plays many roles, so many, sometimes, it’s hard to keep them straight.
She’s the commissioner of the new Big East, attempting to prove that a basketball-centric college athletic conference can succeed in a football-dominated world — and that’s just her day job.
She also serves on a handful of boards, from the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and she’s the United States representative to FIBA. Underneath all of that, she’s a wife, mother, former college basketball standout, and she’s still probably best-known for launching and leading the WNBA.
Add failed cheerleader to the list, too.
“My junior high school, the only sport they offered for girls was cheerleading,” Ackerman says of growing up in suburban New Jersey in the 1960s. “I tried out, and I was cut. I always tell people I’m really a frustrated cheerleader at heart because I didn’t even make cheerleaders.
“It was disastrous.” Ackerman laughs.
Fortunately for the sport of basketball, she ended up on the court instead of the sidelines. Ackerman’s career stops have included all levels of basketball – from college to the NBA/WNBA to USA Basketball and now back to the college game.
She returns at a critical time. Amid waves of conference realignment driven by college football and its revenues, 10 schools without major college football teams formed their own conference this summer. They’re banking on basketball, and they’re relying on Ackerman.
Considering her track record, it’s not a bad bet.
For Ackerman, one of the benefits of Title IX – which passed when she was in eighth grade – was that she was able to play a sport every season in high school. Basketball was her best, and soon she had an offer to play for first-year coach Debbie Ryan at Virginia. She entered in 1977, seven years after the school had gone co-ed, and split a scholarship with a teammate.
A four-year letterwinner and three-year captain, Ackerman was the ideal student-athlete. She excelled on and off the court, and, her former coach says, “people were drawn to her … and immediately … [For more on Big East commissioner Val Ackerman embraces critical role, click here.]
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