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NCAA hires Ackerman to look at women's basketball

Associated Press

Val Ackerman has been involved with women's basketball at many levels. Now she will serve as a consultant and adviser for the NCAA.

Ackerman, who served as president of the WNBA for eight years after helping get the league started, will work with NCAA vice president of women's basketball championships Anucha Browne Sanders, who was hired over the summer.

"The purpose of having me involved is to bring outside perspective," Ackerman said. "I've had the chance to see women's basketball at the pro, international and college levels and can help them assess where women's college basketball is today. What could stand to be changed or improved and what shouldn't be messed with. Try to figure out how best to maintain the student-athlete experience."

Ackerman will help conduct a comprehensive assessment of the current state of women's college basketball, including the NCAA tournament. She hopes to get a report back to the NCAA by the spring.

"I'll look at how to maximize women's basketball from a revenue generating standpoint, as a marketing beacon for women's sports," she said. "The women's Final Four is at the apex for women's sports."

Some areas Ackerman will be looking at include: scheduling, length of season, imaging, marketing and television strategies.

"I'm going to talk to as many people as I can, bring my own perspectives about the sport," Ackerman said. "It's similar to what I've done with the NHL the last few years."

She will try and bring together a lot of different factions in the sport.

"You have the NCAA headquarters, conferences, institutions, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, the outside partners, like ESPN, who have done tremendous work to help advance women's basketball," she said.

Ackerman, the first woman to serve as president of USA Basketball, represents the U.S. on the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Central Board.

One topic Ackerman was already well versed in since it was discussed by FIBA in 2010 and brought up recently by UConn coach Geno Auriemma was lowering the rims.

"This isn't a new topic. I saw Geno's comments on this a few weeks ago," she said. "We'll look at it, but that's among the harder things to do. Women's teams are sharing gyms with the men's teams. It has to have some serious conversation. It might warrant some testing. I'm sure that's never happened."

Ackerman went on to say that if the idea was advanced she couldn't see dramatic changes like lowering the rims to 8-feet.

"The working idea is it would be a tweak 4 or 6 inches — nothing visible to the average fan," she said, "But maybe enough to make a difference in shooting percentages."

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