The WNBA has a new leader with a new title.
The league hired Cathy Engelbert as commissioner on Wednesday. The previous four leaders of the WNBA had been known as president.
“Commissioner, first of all, honored and humbled to have that title. And it comes with awesome responsibility … just really humbled,” Engelbert said.
Since 2015, Engelbert has been CEO of Deloitte US, an accounting organization that works with Fortune 500 companies. She was the first woman to hold that job.
“With Cathy’s hiring, we wanted to signal to the broadest possible audience that the WNBA is a major league and that she has the same status as the heads of other U.S.-based sports leagues,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.
She replaces Lisa Borders, who stepped down in October. NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum has been the interim president since Borders left.
“It is an absolute privilege to be joining the WNBA at such an exciting and important time in its history,” Engelbert said. “I see tremendous opportunity to bolster visibility for the sport of women’s basketball, empower the players and enhance fan engagement. I look forward to using my business expertise and passion for basketball to promote women in the game and beyond, and to working with the teams and world-class athletes to help grow this league into a thriving business.”
Engelbert will start on July 17 once her term as CEO of Deloitte concludes. Tatum will still be in charge of the league until Engelbert takes over.
“I have a term to finish and our fiscal year ends with that term,” Engelbert said about her midseason start date. “I have to finish the financial part of that job. … Fair amount of things I need to get done. Maybe a week or two off with family. I have two graduations. I will be fully engaged with the launch and tipoff in a week or two of the WNBA season. Attending games and networking with the ecosystem.”
One thing the new commissioner will have to deal with relatively quickly is the collective bargaining agreement. The players opted out of the current contract at the end of last season. This season will still be covered by the current CBA.
It’s been an active offseason for the league, which begins its 23rd season on May 24. The WNBA announced a deal with CBS earlier this month to broadcast 40 games on CBS Sports Network. The WNBA also signed AT&T as a top sponsor, added new uniforms by Nike and rebranded itself with a new logo. The league also had a promotional tie-in with the highly successful “Captain Marvel” movie in February and oversaw the sale of the New York Liberty to an investment group led by Brooklyn Nets minority owner Joseph Tsai.
The WNBA also promoted Christin Hedgpeth to chief operating officer in February. She had been filling that role on an interim basis.
Engelbert played college basketball at Lehigh under current Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. She was also on the school’s lacrosse team, serving as captain of both programs.
“Cathy is a world-class business leader with a deep connection to women’s basketball, which makes her the ideal person to lead the WNBA into its next phase of growth,” Silver said. “The WNBA will benefit significantly from her more than 30 years of business and operational experience, including revenue generation, sharp entrepreneurial instincts and proven management abilities.”
SOURCE: AP, Doug Feinberg