Cavalier Corner

April 2014

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BY MIKE SCANDURA V AL ACKERMAN ('81) brought a wealth of experience to the Big East when she was named the con- ference's commissioner in June 2013. Ackerman graduated from Virginia as a four- year starter, a three-time captain, a two-time Aca- demic All-American and the first 1,000-point scorer in UVa women's basketball history. She then went on to earn a law degree from UCLA in 1985, and worked at the New York law firm of Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett. Three years later, she became a staff attorney for the NBA. In 1996, she was named the first president of the WNBA. Due in large part to Ack- erman's efforts, the WNBA is the longest-running women's pro sports team league in the country. She also became the first female president of USA Basketball, during which time the men's and women's teams earned gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, one type of experience she was ex- posed to while with the WNBA, and which still consumes her with the Big East, won't be found in any textbook. "The WNBA gave me experience in not sleep- ing," Ackerman said with a chuckle. "I didn't sleep then and I'm not sleeping now because there's too much to do. It's like drinking out of a fire hose. Every time you cross something off the list, 10 more come in. "The work part here is worse because I have a smaller staff so the burden is much heavier." Any resemblance between the Big East that was "invented" by the late Dave Gavitt in 1979 and the current Big East is pure coincidence. The "new" Big East consists of seven non- football playing schools (Providence, Creigh- ton, DePaul, Marquette, St. John's, Seton Hall and Xavier), plus three that play football at the Division I Football Championship Subdivision level (Georgetown, Butler and Villanova, although Nova is the only school that offers scholarships). Former Big East schools such as Boston Col- lege, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and West Virginia bolted for greener pas- tures, moving to other conferences where they could reap the financial benefits that come with playing football. "There is a similarity in building a brand," Ack- erman said. "The NBA was an established brand. BIG ( EAST ) CHALLENGE Val Ackerman Guides Revamped Basketball-Centric Conference Into A New Era i22-23.Val Ackerman.indd 1 4/2/14 9:31 AM

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