Val Ackerman was named the fifth Commissioner of the Big East Conference on June 26, 2013. She was the founding President of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and a past President of USA Basketball, which oversees the U.S. men's and women's Olympic basketball program. She has had a long and accomplished career in the sports industry and is one of the few sports executives who has held leadership positions in both men’s and women’s sports at the collegiate, professional, national team and international levels.
Val currently serves as chair of the Division I subdivision for the NCAA Collegiate Commissioners Association and is a member of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee. She was recognized by Forbes magazine in 2015 as one of the Most Powerful People in College Sports and one of the Most Powerful Women in Sports, and by Adweek magazine in 2016 as one of the Most Powerful Women in Sports.
Val attended the University of Virginia as one of the school's first female student athlete scholarship recipients. She was a four-year starter, three-time captain and two-time Academic All-American for the Cavaliers’ women’s basketball team and the first 1,000-point scorer in the program's history. She graduated with high distinction with a degree in political and social thought in 1981 and played one year of professional basketball in France before earning a law degree from UCLA in 1985.
Val started her legal career as a corporate and banking associate at the New York law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and joined the National Basketball Association as a staff attorney in 1988. She was as an executive at the NBA for eight years, serving as Special Assistant to NBA Commissioner David Stern and Director (and later) Vice President of Business Affairs before being named the WNBA's first President in 1996. She guided the league to a much-heralded launch in 1997 and headed its day-to-day operations for its first eight seasons.
In 2005, Val was elected President of USA Basketball for the 2005-08 term, leading the organization to an overall competitive record of 222-23 and gold medal performances by the U.S. men's and women's basketball teams at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She was one of the NBA's original appointees to the USA Basketball Board of Directors in 1989 and served as an organizational liaison with USAB during the early years of NBA participation in FIBA competitions, including the 1992 and 1996 Olympics and 1994 World Championships. A USA Basketball Board member for 23 years, Val played a key role in the long-standing success of the U.S. women's national basketball team program, which won gold medals at the 1998, 2002 and 2010 FIBA World Championships and the 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. In 2013, Val was named the recipient of USA Basketball's Edward S. Steitz Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions in international basketball.
Val also served two terms (2006-10 and 2010-2014) as the U.S. representative for men's and women's basketball on the Central Board of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the sport's world governing body. She was a member of FIBA’s Competition Commission and served on the Central Board of FIBA Americas, FIBA’s zone authority for North, Central and South America.
Val is a member of the adjunct faculty for Columbia University's graduate sports management program, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, the Board of Directors of the National Consortium for Academics and Sports, and the Advisory Board of the NYU Tisch Institute for Sports Management, Media and Business. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, which inducted her as a contributor in 2011, and is a Lifetime Trustee of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, which presented her with the John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. She has done consulting work for the National Hockey League, which she assisted in formulating a long-term plan to support women's ice hockey, and the NCAA, for which she prepared a comprehensive white paper in 2013 on growth strategies for women's college basketball. She also worked as a free-lance columnist for espnw.com, where she authored a series of articles on the subject of women and sports and participated as a member of the espnw Advisory Board.
Val’s accomplishments in the sports business have earned her numerous awards, including the University of Virginia’s Distinguished Alumna Award; the March of Dimes Sports Achievement Award; induction into the GTE Academic All-America Hall of Fame; the Girls Scouts of America National Women of Distinction Juliette Award; the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund Equal Opportunity Award; inclusion on the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 50th Anniversary Women’s Basketball team; induction into the International Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame; the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association President’s Citation; the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award; the International Olympic Committee Women and Sport Achievement Diploma; the Sports Business Journal Champions in Sports Business Award; inclusion as a Women’s Sports Foundation/espnw 40 for 40 Honoree; induction into the National Consortium for Academics and Sports Hall of Fame; the Women in Sports and Events (WISE) 20th Anniversary Women of Distinction Award; and the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health Sports Ball Award.
In 2016, she received the Women’s Sports Foundation’s prestigious Billie Jean King Contribution Award, which recognizes significant contributions to the development and advancement of women’s sports.
Val is married to Charlie Rappaport, a retired tax partner of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. They have two daughters, Emily (a 2014 graduate of Yale) and Sally (an undergraduate at Wesleyan University).