What Big East commissioner Val Ackerman’s media day comments mean for the Gonzaga Bulldogs

Big East commissioner Val Ackerman discussed expansion in the wake of recent conference realignment across the NCAA.

Ackerman made it clear the conference isn’t looking to expand right now, but indicated they had informal conversations with multiple schools over the summer.

It’s safe to assume Gonzaga was one of those schools, with programs like Dayton, Saint Louis, Loyola-Chicago, and possibly Saint Mary’s in there as well.

Ackerman’s assertion that the Big East is “good at 11” may not seem like a good sign for the Zags in the short term, but the commissioner went on to say the league’s new media rights deal, which will begin on July 1, 2025, could provide a good time to make changes.

As has been the case with most realignment decisions, media money is the driving factor. The Big East doesn’t have real incentive to change anything right now, with 11 comfortable member institutions and a strong media package. The appeal of adding Gonzaga and re-negotiating a bigger deal is obvious though, with ESPN in particular showing a strong affinity for Zag basketball in recent years.

Of course, the media aspect of ‘Gonzaga to the Big East’ was never the hurdle. Instead, it will come down to making the geographic differences between the member schools work – not just for basketball but for every affiliated sport in the Big East.

Ackerman acknowledged geography during her media availability, saying it’s a factor in their decision making but that it is not an insurmountable hurdle – a promising sign for Gonzaga’s future:

For the Zags, they’ll have to decide if bringing all their sports (including tennis, volleyball, cross country, etc.) to the Big East is feasible from a financial and travel standpoint. If not, they could try to only move the basketball programs – but there is no reason the WCC would offer to house Gonzaga’s non revenue generating sports

That’s a pretty big hurdle, and one that doesn’t come with an obvious solution. Traveling small budget programs to Rhode Island and DC every year is a huge academic and financial loss, and Gonzaga would need to ensure the financial benefits of a move to the Big East outweigh the costs.

So, while Ackerman’s comments are encouraging, they don’t solve some of the challenging hurdles that still stand in the way of Mark Few’s program joining the upper echelon of basketball conferences in the country.

3 thoughts on “What Big East commissioner Val Ackerman’s media day comments mean for the Gonzaga Bulldogs

  1. Hard to take the article seriously when the author can’t do the minimum research required to figure out that the Big East doesn’t sponsor rowing, and hasn’t since 2013. Gonzaga rowing will never be going to the Big East, mainly because it doesn’t exist. The only Gonzaga sports that will be traveling to Big East schools on a yearly basis are: baseball, M/W basketball, M/W soccer, and W volleyball. That’s it. Six sports. The majority of sports will be able to keep their current schedules with the only change being going to Big East Championships at the end of the season rather than WCC Championships. These include: M/W cross country, M/W golf, M/W tennis, M/W track & field. M/W rowing won’t be affected at all. Details matter with these things.

      1. As a huge Big East fan, I’m a big proponent of Gonzaga coming on board. I generally think it’s remarkably overblown how often the Olympic sports are brought up as a travel barrier for the move. As stated, the individual sports wouldn’t ever need to travel to the Big East schools because they don’t have home-and-home games/meets/matches with Big East teams. So really it’s just the 6 sports mentioned, which would seem to be feasible. Hope to see the Zags in the Big East in 2025.

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