Val Ackerman

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Val Ackerman, first president of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA)

Valerie B. "Val" Ackerman (born November 7, 1959 in Lakewood Township, New Jersey) is the current commissioner of the Big East Conference. She is best known for being the first president of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), serving from 1996-2005.[1] She is an attorney, sports executive, and former basketball player.

Early life[edit]

Ackerman was born in 1959 in Lakewood Township, New Jersey, but grew up in Pennington, New Jersey, United States.[2]

Ackerman graduated in 1977 from Hopewell Valley Central High School in Hopewell Township, Mercer County, New Jersey.[3] Ackerman's 1,755 points set the school's varsity basketball career record for points scored by any basketball player, male or female, and she set the school's career scoring record as a halfback in field hockey, topped off by graduating second in her class. She was inducted into the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 1997.[4]

College years[edit]

Ackerman graduated from the University of Virginia in 1981, where she was among the school's first female scholarship athletes. She was a four-year starter, three-time captain and two-time Academic All-American for the women's basketball team. She earned her B.A. in Political and Social Thought. In 1997, Ackerman received U. Va.'s Distinguished Alumna Award from the University's Women's Center. In 2003, she was named a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference's 50th Anniversary Women's Basketball Team. Ackerman also earned a law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and worked for two years as a corporate and banking associate at the New York law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.


Ackerman played professional basketball in France for one season. In 1988, she served as a staff attorney for the National Basketball Association and as special assistant to NBA Commissioner David Stern, director of business affairs and vice president of business affairs prior to her appointment to head the WNBA in 1996. Ackerman lives in New York City with her husband, Charles Rappaport, and her two daughters, Emily and Sally.

From 1995-1996, she was a driving force behind the creation of the historic USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team program that culminated with a 60-0 record and the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

On August 7, 1996, Ackerman was named president of the WNBA. Over the course of her historic eight-year term, Ackerman would become the first women ever to successfully launch and operate a women's team sports league. On February 1, 2005 Ackerman stepped down, and Donna Orender was named as her successor. Laurel Richie succeeded Orender in 2011.

In 2006, Ackerman was named the U.S. delegate to the Central Board of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), which is basketball's worldwide governing body. She is also a member of FIBA's Competition Commission. Ackerman currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the Board of Directors of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, and the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. She is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Virginia Athletics Foundation.

In May 2005 she became the first female president of USA Basketball for the 2005-2008 term, succeeding Tom Jernstedt from the NCAA, who served from 2000-2004. During her term, she oversaw a restructuring of the USA Basketball Board of Directors and gold medal performances by the men's and women's basketball teams at the Beijing Olympics.[5] In 2006, she was named a recipient of the NCAA's Silver Anniversary Award, which is awarded to former student athletes who have achieved personal distinction since graduation. In 2008, she received the IOC's Women of Distinction diploma and the John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.[citation needed] In 2010, she was named an inductee of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2011. In 2011, she was named a Champion in Sports Business by Sports Business Journal. Since 2009, she has been a member of the adjunct faculty for Columbia University's Master of Science in Sports Management Program, where she has taught Leadership and Personnel Management with Neal Pilson, former President of CBS Sports. She has also been a contributing columnist for

Ackerman's other honors have included the Brandweek Co-Marketer of the Year Award in 1997, which she shared with Rick Welts, then President of NBA Properties; the New Jersey Sportswriters Association Executive of the Year Award in 1997; the March of Dimes Sports Achievement Award in 1997; induction into the GTE Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 1999; and the National Mother's Day Committee's Outstanding Mother Award in 2002.

On June 26, 2013, she was named as the commissioner of the Big East Conference, which split from the American Athletic Conference that year.[1]

Ackerman report[edit]

In November 2012, Ackerman was hired by the NCAA to study the women's game and come up with recommendations for improvement. She conveyed preliminary conclusions at a presentation at a Women's Basketball Coaches Association convention, and followed up with a formal written report in June 2013. Some of the proposals including cutting the number of scholarships (to improve parity),[6] changing the dates or locations of the NCAA Tournament, and possible rules changes such as reducing the shot clock.[7][8]


  1. ^ a b Katz, Andy (June 26, 2013). "Big East hires Val Ackerman as chief". Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  2. ^ Wodraska, Lya. [ "WNBA Boss Applies NBA Tactics To Bring (and Keep) League Alive", The Salt Lake Tribune, June 6, 1999. Accessed February 15, 2011. "Ackerman, a self-described tomboy, grew up in Pennington, NJ."
  3. ^ "Leading the Way in Women's Sports", U.S. 1 Newspaper, October 26, 2005. Accessed August 26, 2007. "Today this 1977 graduate of Pennington's Hopewell Valley Central High School is the president of USA Basketball - the national federation responsible for the selection, training, and fielding of U.S. teams that compete in international basketball competitions, including the Olympics, and for some national competitions."
  4. ^ Hall of Fame, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. Accessed August 26, 2008.
  5. ^ Val Ackerman Elected USA Basketball President, USA Basketball press release dated March 22, 2005.
  6. ^ Kallam, Clay (September 13, 2013). "The Ackerman Report (10): Nurture parity, expand interest". Lee Michaelson. Retrieved 23 Sep 2013. 
  7. ^ Gleeson, Scott (June 17, 2013). "Ackerman urges change to NCAA women's basketball tourney". USA Today. Retrieved 23 Sep 2013. 
  8. ^ "Val Ackerman submits NCAA report". ESPN. ESPN. June 17, 2013. Retrieved 23 Sep 2013. 
Preceded by
Mark Johnson
Gary Lawrence
Paul McDonald
Greg Meredith
Joan Benoit Samuelson
Dave Stoldt
Silver Anniversary Awards (NCAA)
Class of 2006
Valerie Ackerman
Danny Ainge
Charles Davis
Terry Schroeder
Mike Singletary
Susan Wellington
Succeeded by
Gail Koziara Boudreaux
Ambrose “Rowdy” Gaines
Steve Jordan
Patricia Melton
Ann Woods Smith
William Stetson, M.D.