Val Ackerman was named the Commissioner of the Big East Conference on June 26, 2013. She has spent 25 years in the sports business as an attorney and executive, primarily in the sport of basketball, where her experience has encompassed both the men's and women's games at the collegiate, professional and international levels. Val 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 currently serves 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.
Val grew up in Pennington, N.J., where she was a standout high school athlete in field hockey, basketball and track. She attended the University of Virginia as one of the school's first female student-athlete scholarship recipients, helping build the foundation of the school's then-fledgling women's basketball program. She was a four-year starter, three-time captain and two-time Academic All-American for the Cavaliers 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 and Bartlett and later 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 oversaw its day-to-day operations for its first eight seasons. The league established new benchmarks for women's professional basketball globally and remains the longest-running women's pro team sports league in the United States.
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 Olympic Games 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 is currently a member of the adjunct faculty for Columbia University's graduate sports management program. She is a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, the Board of Trustees of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Board of Directors of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. She also serves on FIBA's Competition Commission, which provides strategic direction for FIBA's overall event calendar. 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 has also been a columnist for espnw.com, offering commentary on various subjects relating to women and sports. Val has also been an active alumna at the University of Virginia, where she has participated in capital campaign efforts and co-chairs the school's Women in Leadership and Philanthropy Initiative. She is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Virginia Athletics Foundation.
Val's efforts in the sports business have earned her many awards, including the Sports Business Journal Champions Award, Brandweek Co-Marketer of the Year, the U. Va. Distinguished Alumna Award, the March of Dimes Sports Achievement Award, induction into the GTE Academic All-America Hall of Fame and International Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame, the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, inclusion on the Atlantic Coast Conference's 50th Anniversary Women's Basketball Team, the Girl Scouts of America National Women of Distinction Award, the International Olympic Committee Women and Sport Achievement Diploma, and the Naismith Hall of Fame's John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award .
In 2011, Val was inducted as contributor into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2012, she was named a "40 For 40" honoree by the Women's Sports Foundation in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX.
Val and her husband, Charlie Rappaport, live in New York City and have two daughters, Emily and Sally.