Ackerman ready for basketball season
The new Big East Conference has found its true heroine in Val Ackerman.
On June 23, Ackerman was named the fifth president in conference history; she will also be the first woman to hold this position. Ackerman is no stranger to being the first lady of college hoops.
During her playing days at the University of Virginia, she was the first woman at the school to receive an athletic scholarship prior to Title IX.
In 2005, she was named president of the USA Basketball Association, which oversees both the men’s and women’s Olympic teams. Ackerman also was the founding president of the WNBA.
Her devotion to the sport of basketball has earned respect and admiration from her peers in the NCAA basketball community.
The Big East’s new partnership with Fox Sports and Fox Sports 1 brought some broadcasting star power to Wednesday’s Big East media day. Ackerman was introduced by the two new voices of the Big East, Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery.
Raftery had a comical introduction of the new president by drawing comparisons between himself and Ackerman.
“We both are from New Jersey, though we haven’t been indicted,” Raftery joked. “Val was a two-time all-American and I spent two terms at LaSalle…Eisenhower and Kennedy.”
Raftery’s old-school humor and wealth of experience is appropriate for a Big East conference that is trying to ground itself as a conference centered on basketball, similar to the way the conference started out more than three decades ago.
“We are going to do everything that Dave Gavitt set out to do when he brought this league into being in 1979,” Ackerman said.
After the introductions, Ackerman was presented with a gift from the presidents of the schools in the conference, a Big East basketball jersey embroidered with the name “Ackerman” and the number 1314.
Once the fun and accolades subsided, Ackerman took the microphone.
“I can’t tell you what an honor it remains for me to be doing what I’m doing for the Big East confer- ence,” Ackerman said.
When she spoke, it was easy to see the drive and intensity that Ackerman has used to get her where she is today.
Every word was spoken with such passion that it seemed convincing to all in attendance.
“I care deeply about intercollegiate athletics and I care really, really deeply about the game of basketball,” Ackerman said.
The pride that Ackerman has in her new job truly showed on Wednesday morning when she spoke of the league’s new members with a sense of relief that the entire expansion ordeal has finally ended.
“When I think about this conference, I think about the word journey,” Ackerman said. “We all have our stories, we all have had our personal journeys, this conference has had quite the journey.”
As far as the Seton Hall journey is concerned, great success seems to be in a not-so-distant future.
With a soon-to-be extremely successful men’s program coming to South Orange, it can only help that the school’s programs are controlled by such a strong leader in Ackerman.
Gerard Gilberto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.