Big East commissioner Val Ackerman talks to the Only One


This column continues the Only One series in which this reporter shares his experiences as the only African American journalist on the scene.

(l-r) Val Ackerman and Chicago Sky Coach GM Pokey Chatman
(l-r) Val Ackerman and Chicago Sky Coach GM Pokey Chatman

Val Ackerman will soon celebrate two years as Big East commissioner. “It’s not the Big East of UConn, Notre Dame, Louisville and Rutgers anymore. We’re a different group,” said the 25-year sports business veteran who was named league commissioner in June 2013.

Ackerman’s appointment came a little over a year after she was commissioned by the NCAA to produce her “White paper” on women’s basketball. “I tried to cover a lot of ground in my paper, to look at different components,” said Ackerman of her six-month study of the game that included over 100 interviews.

Later she and 34 others, including coaches C. Vivian Stringer, Coquese Washington, several head coaches and league officials, network folk and others, assembled as an ad-hoc group at a March 2014 “White Paper Summit.” The summit involved “frank and candid discussions about the future of women’s basketball” in Indianapolis, wrote’s Greg Johnson.

It’s been a while since the Only One and Ackerman sat and talked a shared passion —women’s hoops in particular, and women’s sports in general, which we regularly did during her time as the WNBA founding president.

The pace of the women game was among the topics explored and discussed in her paper, recalled Ackerman. It more than likely was influential in the latest changes recently put in place for the upcoming season, including changing from two halves to four quarters.

“The way women’s basketball is structured is the immediate change, which I recommended,” she told the MSR after the first Big Ten-Big East hosted the women’s sports leadership symposium in March in Chicago.

Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen said that after college, the faster pace of the game — 10-minute quarters from 20-minute halves — was a huge adjustment early on in her pro career. She told the MSR last week that she likes the change from two halves to four quarters.

“I think it’s good when you have consistency across the levels,” said Whalen, now in her 12th WNBA season. “I think everyone is trying to grow the game, which is good.”

There is one painful change for next season this columnist strongly thumbs-down: school bands and piped-in music can now be played during any dead-ball situation during games “to improve the overall fan experience.”

This means now the world’s worst college pep band, which resides in Gopherland, can make more noise than ever. Even worse, now college and pro contests will sound annoyingly alike, a constant noise distraction that makes attending games a headache to watch in person.

Read more about college basketball’s new changes in “Another View” in this week’s MSR.


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