AAC targeting Tim Pernetti as its next commissioner: Sources

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The American Athletic Conference is targeting IMG Academy president and former Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti as its next commissioner, multiple people briefed on the hiring process told The Athletic on Tuesday. A deal is not yet finalized but could be soon. Yahoo Sports first reported the news.

If completed, Pernetti would replace the outgoing Mike Aresco, who announced in December he would retire at the end of the 2023-24 school year. Aresco is the only commissioner in the history of this version of the conference, which spun out of the Big East’s split in 2013.

Like Aresco, Pernetti has a background in both sports business, television and college sports. Perhaps coincidentally, Pernetti worked with both Aresco and Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti at CBS Sports in the 2000s, and they also each spent time at ABC Sports/ESPN.

Pernetti has spent the last decade in a variety of sports business and sports-adjacent roles. He’s been IMG Academy’s president since 2022 after holding other roles with IMG and former parent company Endeavor. IMG Academy is a prep high school and sports powerhouse in Bradenton, Fla. Last year, Endeavor entered an agreement to sell the school to a private equity firm.

Before taking over the academy, Pernetti helped lead IMG College, which works with universities on their branding and commercial partnerships. (IMG College merged with Learfield in 2019.) Pernetti was Rutgers’ athletic director from 2009 to 2013. A former Rutgers football player, he was one of the youngest ADs in the country when hired by his alma mater and was the AD when Rutgers accepted an invitation to join the Big Ten.

He stepped down in April 2013 amid the men’s basketball scandal involving former coach Mike Rice. The coach had been suspended three games and fined the previous December over what Pernetti said was inappropriate language and behavior. After video surfaced of Rice grabbing players, throwing balls at them and calling them homophobic slurs, Pernetti said he had wanted to fire Rice rather than suspend him, but didn’t have the support of university officials based on school policy.

A January report conducted by the school’s outside counsel stated that Rice could have been fired at the time.

Before Rutgers, Pernetti worked at ABC Sports from 1994 to 2003, including time overseeing the college sports coverage. He then worked at College Sports TV and CBS, which acquired CSTV.

As Aresco heads into retirement, the AAC finds itself in positions of both strength and uncertainty. The league has undoubtedly been the strongest Group of 5 conference since the College Football Playoff era began in 2014. It weathered the loss of Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to the Big 12 by adding six Conference USA schools and Army football this upcoming season.

Its schools have the largest budgets and salaries among G5 leagues, and the conference has the richest G5 television deal with ESPN, which goes into 2032. But the future of college sports remains uncertain with various legal challenges, the potential of athlete employment and the consolidation of money and power around the Big Ten and SEC.

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