New York, NY — After nearly a seven month search, the WNBA announced Wednesday that Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert has been named the leagues’ commissioner. She replaces Lisa Borders who served as the president of the league for a couple of seasons.
Engelbert, 53, becomes the fifth president in league history following Val Ackerman, Donna Orender, Laurel Richie and Borders.
Prior to becoming commissioner, the Lehigh University graduate has worked for Deloitte since 1986 and been CEO since 2015. Deloitte is accounting organization that works with Fortune 500 companies. She was the first woman to hold the title of CEO for the company.
While at Lehigh, Engelbert was captain of the basketball team, averaging 14 points a contest her senior year and helping Lehigh win the East Coast Conference tournament. She was also captain of the lacrosse team.
The WNBA season is just days away from tip-off on May 24 and there will be a few challenges for Engelbert once she steps into her new role. However, she will not officially take over until July 17 when her four-year term as CEO with Deloitte concludes. Among the biggest of challenges will be trying to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. The players opted out of the current contract at the end of last season. However, the current CBA will cover this season.
Although that there will not be a swift agreement on the new CBA, the WNBA’s players union is in good spirits and is encouraged that the league has chosen someone not only with business experience such as Engelbert’s but also basketball knowledge.
“We look forward to working with Cathy, and seeing a redefined commitment to policies that value and support the working women and working mothers across the league,” the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said in a statement. “The progressive thinking and values Cathy has demonstrated throughout her career leave us optimistic about what the future could look like for WNBA players.”
The league is heading into its 23rd season and is continuing to make major strides from last year. The league announced a deal with CBS earlier this month to broadcast 40 games on CBS Sports Network and also signed AT&T as a top sponsor. In addition, they have added new uniforms by Nike and re-branded themselves with a new logo. Yet, they still have work to do. While the television audience was up last season, attendance was down 13 percent.
Though this is quite the welcome to becoming league commissioner, Engelbert is ready for the challenge and is grateful for the opportunity.
“It is an absolute privilege to be joining the WNBA at such an exciting and important time in its history,” she 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 step into her role as commissioner on July 17 once her term as CEO of Deloitte concludes.