SBD/June 27, 2013/Colleges

As First Commish Of Revamped Big East, Val Ackerman Addresses Hiring, Expansion

Ackerman is happy with a 10-team league and doesn't have plans for expansion
The Big East yesterday named former WNBA President Val Ackerman Commissioner, and the new conference "wanted to follow the model of the Pac-12, which hired Larry Scott, who had been head of women's professional tennis," according to Andy Katz of ESPN.com. The Big East recently had "centered on candidates outside of college athletics" in Ackerman, MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan and Celtics President Rich Gotham. The new conference currently has "no staff," but its offices will be in N.Y. (ESPN.com, 6/26). In Newark, Brendan Prunty notes Ackerman yesterday admitted that her "current office is her iPhone and that the league is looking to find a short-term space" in N.Y. From there it will be "building alliances and forging relationships that will help the new Big East rise to the level of the old one." Ackerman said, "Obviously, there is quite a lot of work to do in the immediate future to get the conference fully operational. We have people to hire. We have schedules to create. We have events to stage. We have office space to move into. Business plans to develop. All I can say today is that we will do that" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/27). Ackerman said that the work of scheduling fall sports for the Big East "has been accomplished under the guidance of former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, who was brought in to jump-start the planning process in March and will stay on 'in the near term.'" In DC, Liz Clarke notes Ackerman "pledged to ensure that the Big East was a key player in NCAA decisions about men’s and women’s basketball, and she alluded to a desire to extend the Big East brand globally, presumably by holding occasional games overseas" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/27). 

THE RIGHT STUFF: In N.Y., Lenn Robbins writes Ackerman is "paper perfect, a bridge between the founding days" of late former Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt and the "future days of reshaping and rebranding the new Big East." The conference "made it quite clear yesterday" that it wants to be "seen as a shining example of what it believes a college conference should be -- one committed to athletic success and academic excellence." That "doesn't mean that Ackerman ... doesn't know what the sports entertainment business is all about." She is "smart, shrewd and well respected -- conservative in style but not above being professionally conniving" (N.Y. POST, 6/27). ESPN.com's Katz wrote Ackerman yesterday "impressed the media" yesterday with her "command of the issues and knowledge of the landscape after not being involved in college athletics recently." Meanwhile, if the Big East is "going to be all about basketball then 10 is the magic number." The new Big East "doesn't need anymore of the A-10 schools to be solvent." The conference has "enough of the market place and would not benefit much from adding more schools simply to get more teams" in the NCAA Tournament (ESPN.com, 6/27). Ackerman said of any potential Big East expansion, "Ten is a great number. We have no immediate plans to go beyond it. We have so much on our plate" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/27).

MEDIA DARLINGS
: In Philadelphia, Mike Jensen wrote, "This new Big East incarnation is not against exposure or making money." Ackerman has an "immediate chance to show her mettle." Her "first test" will be to "stand up to Fox as it puts together its first college hoops schedule." The network "isn't in the student-athlete business," and would have "zero problem showing games any night of the week." Ackerman's next test will be to "stand up to the presidents themselves," as she knows "more about sports than most or maybe all of them do" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6/27). Ackerman said Big East schools "have a homogeneity that is important, and desirable, and attractive." SPORTS ON EARTH's Howard Megdal writes Fox Sports 1 "certainly thought so," and "so did Madison Square Garden." The Big East has "plenty of money, and the kind of stability that other conferences can only bring about with restrictive grants of media rights agreements." So while the Big East is "insulated from the potential downfall of college football over the medium- and long-term, it is also avoiding the largest single payout in college sports right now: the conference network" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 6/27).
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