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AAC hires Tim Pernetti as new commissioner: Former Rutgers athletic director replaces Mike Aresco

The American Athletic Conference has hired longtime college sports executive Tim Pernetti as its next commissioner, the conference announced Wednesday. Pernetti replaces Mike Aresco, who transformed the league from the former Big East to the AAC. 

“I am fired up to work alongside our board, conference staff, athletics directors and coaches as we continue to transform the AAC into a bold collegiate conference enterprise that promotes world-class academic and athletic opportunities for our student-athletes through innovative resources, brand partnerships and emerging opportunities,” Pernetti said in a statement released by the conference. “I am ready to roll up my sleeves and, alongside our conference community, get to work.” 

Pernetti comes to the AAC with experience in both college athletics and the business side of sports. He will join the conference after a series of roles working for IMG, the leading sports marketing and branding firm. From 2015-19, he was the president of IMG College, a branch of the company dealing with building sponsorships and sales for universities. He spent the last two years leading IMG Academy, the high school in Bradenton, Florida, known for recruiting and developing elite athletes. 

“Tim Pernetti is the ideal leader to guide the American Athletic Conference through this pivotal time in college athletics,” American Athletic Conference Board Executive Committee chairman Dr. Philp Rogers said in a statement released by the conference.. “His perspective as a successful student-athlete, a respected and progressive director of athletics, and his demonstrated leadership, innovation, competitive spirit, and business acumen across a number of professional organizations make him uniquely suited to build on the success of Mike Aresco and steer the conference to a bright future.”

Prior to his time at IMG Academy, Pernetti was athletic director at Rutgers, his alma mater. In 2014, Pernetti brokered the deal to bring Rutgers to the Big Ten Conference, which earned him finalist honors for SBJ’s National Athletic Director of the Year. He also has experience at CBS Sports, ABC Sports and ESPN. 

Pernetti resigned from his role as Rutgers athletic director after a scandal involving player abuse by former men’s basketball coach Mike Rice in 2015. A leaked video showed Rice throwing basketballs at members of his team in practice, kicking players and using  homophobic slurs. Pernetti opted to suspend and fine Rice, but was later forced to fire Rice after public backlash. Pernetti was forced to resign one day later. 

Pernetti will be asked to guide the AAC through a pivotal moment in college athletics. The conference added six new teams for the 2023 season and welcomes Army as a new football member. The 2024 season also marks the debut of the expanded College Football Playoff, which guarantees the top Group of Five champion a spot in the field. 

As commissioner of the AAC, Pernetti will one of 11 chairs on the CFP Management Committee, made up of the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. By 2025, seven of the 11 members will have changed since 2020. 

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