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Big East Commissioner Ackerman excited about league’s growth

Improvements in television viewership, shiny new arenas and more bolster confidence.

Val Ackerman speaks at Big East Media day
Val Ackerman speaks at Big East Media day
Trey Rodriguez

Ackerman’s opening address opened up Big East Media Day noted how the conference is doing heading into the fifth year since the rebuild to shift away from football.

Following a year where seven out of the ten teams in the Big East Conference made it to the NCAA tournament, it’s easy to understand why Commissioner Val Ackerman is so excited.

“We’re very comfortable with who we are, we are basketball schools,” said Ackerman. This sentiment was echoed in the coach’s panel that followed Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright talked about how important it was that basketball be the hottest ticket on each and every campus.

Ackerman proudly acknowledged that the Big East saw three players drafted last year. Josh Hart and Justin Patton were first round picks while Edmond Sumner was picked in the second round. In terms of collegiate respect, the conference enjoyed a composite RPI that ranked third among all conferences. (RPI, the rating percentage index, compares all teams based on wins, losses, and strength of schedule).

The commissioner saw the broadcast partner, Fox Sports, as integral to the respect the Big East has gained.

“We could not have done what we have done without you,” Ackerman said, referring to the Fox Sports representatives who attended media day. Ackerman says this year close to 150 games will be broadcast across the Fox networks.

According to Ackerman, ratings for the Big East games on Fox Sports 1 were up 16% last year. She also said more than 23 million viewers tuned into the games, up 20 million from the year before - many of whom enjoyed the network’s top team, Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery, who return this season.

In addition to the Fox Sports Networks, 18 games will be played on the CBS Sports Network, and two will be on CBS.

Ackerman also boasted about the growth of the facilities, along with the growth of viewership, within the Big East.

Providence is in the middle of constructing a new practice facility for men’s and women’s basketball. Villanova is renovating the on-campus Pavilion. Xavier is updating the on-campus arena, the Cintas Center. And most notably, DePaul is set to open the new Wintrust Arena just south of the heart of downtown Chicago - seen as a huge step forward for Blue Demon Basketball.

Marquette also plans to join the Milwaukee Bucks in their new arena when that opens up in the near future.

With the return of superstars like Trevon Bluiett and Jalen Brunson mixed with exciting new faces like Omari Spellman and St. John’s Justin Simon, expect the Big East to take another step forward in 2017-2018.