Although Ackerman has only been on the job as Big East commissioner for a few months, she is already very committed to seeing the success of the new basketball-centric version. With stints as the head of the WNBA and USA Basketball, Ackerman has a tremendous amount of experience running some of the largest basketball entities in the world and she's excited about the opportunity to run the Big East.
"It's been a whirlwind of a last 84 days or so since I took this position as commissioner of the Big East conference. When I came into the job I was given a couple of things: I was given the Big East name, a television agreement with Fox Sports -- which I can't take any credit for, we're bringing it to life now but it was done before I took the position -- the rights to play our men's basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden and an incredible commitment from 10 great schools to come together and to go back in many ways to the heritage of the conference in 1979 when it was founded as a collection of schools that were intensely interested not only in basketball but in all the things that schools are supposed to do well. Educating their student-athletes, providing the kinds of opportunities you can only get in higher education including great leaders," Ackerman said.
Some critics have questioned the Big East's ability to thrive in the college football-dominated landscape of college athletics, but Ackerman dispelled that notion by stating that the Big East will move forward while also celebrating the conference's storied history.
"I will tell you the Big East is alive and well," Ackerman said. "I know it's been kind of a whirl the last year or so as decisions were made with respect to the separation from the old conference and the decision to start anew in a way, to bring in three great new schools -- Butler, Creighton and Xavier -- who all have the same focus and commitment that we have here at DePaul," Ackerman said.
"This is the 35th anniversary of the Big East -- the conference was founded in 1979 -- so we have a bit of an anniversary to celebrate and there really is a desire to not only recapture the heritage of the conference and the history but to also to try to do it in a modern way. College sports are changing, the environment is very different from when (DePaul Athletic Director) Jean (Lenti-Ponsetto) and I were in school and so we're going to try very hard to make sure that we're a modern conference and bringing a sense of innovation to what we do together with our desire to go back to our roots."
Helping in the new Big East's quest to maintain as a high-level basketball league is the new arrangement with Fox Sports, which Ackerman says will generate a lot of positive publicity for the conference and DePaul.
"We have a very good asset in this television arrangement we have with Fox Sports which will have the effect of bringing a national platform not only to our men's basketball games but also women's basketball games and really all of our sports," Ackerman said. "We recently announced our schedule. Every one of our men's basketball games here at DePaul -- for example -- are going to be on some national platform whether it's Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports Regionally or CBS Sports. DePaul women's games are going to be on television as well and we think that's going to be a tremendous opportunity not only to tell that story, but also the great story about your school and about your student athletes. They're really remarkable people and it will be a great way for us to tell the world about them."
The conference tournament in men's basketball staying in Madison Square Garden is another positive move with the new Big East. Ackerman also disclosed that the league would likely set up it's offices in New York City.
"We do have our men's basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden which is very exciting. We do plan to set up shop in New York. I don't think any college conference has ever been in New York City so there's an opportunity there and we think it's a good one. Particularly because so many of the business partners that we want and need to help build the Big East brand and certain initiatives are based there so that's very, very helpful," Ackerman said.
While the men's basketball championships in the Big East are quite a big deal, news also broke on Tuesday that DePaul and the Allstate Arena would aide in hosting the women's Big East tournament.
"We're now going to be doing our women's basketball tournament here in Chicago. First time ever that the Big East Tournament is going to be here in Chicago. I couldn't be more excited about this. I am so excited that we're going to be here. We have a great partner in DePaul, and we're going to be playing this in Allstate Arena which is a tremendous venue," Ackerman said.
Ackerman also had a lot of positive things to say about DePaul and how she was thrilled to have them stay in the Big East.
"We're really proud to have DePaul in our league. Jean is among the best in the business as an administrator and you're very, very lucky to have her. She's been a great help to me in the past as a guiding force over the past several weeks," Ackerman said.
"We are very impressed with the basketball history that you have here. We know Coach Purnell is going to take the program to great heights. Doug Bruno is literally a legend in women's basketball. Doug and I had a chance to spend some time together yesterday because there's sort of a lot going on in women's basketball these days about what we can do to keep that sport growing and moving and Doug has been a loud and active and strong voice on what we need to do to make that happen."
Commissioner Talks Big East & DePaul's Future
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