New AAC Commissioner Prioritizes Student-Athletes

Tim Pernetti | Image by AAC

The Irving-based American Athletic Conference introduced its new commissioner — Tim Pernetti — on Thursday after a national search involving many of the conference’s university presidents and athletic directors.

Pernetti will officially take the position in June and become the second commissioner in the conference’s 11-year history, replacing Mike Aresco. While he admitted there are several issues and priorities he needs to address as the conference moves forward, he emphasized that everything he will do will be in the best interest of the student-athletes.

“As we head into the future together, the student-athletes of this conference are going to be at the center of every conversation and every decision that we make,” Pernetti said. “We will do everything possible to deliver a world-class experience, to provide the resources and access they deserve, earn degrees, become leaders, and win championships that everyone wants to win.”

Pernetti is a former NCAA student-athlete himself, having played tight end for the Rutgers football team from 1989 to 1993, and has multiple children involved in collegiate athletics.

After completing his playing career, Pernetti worked for CBS Sports and ABC Sports before returning to Rutgers as athletic director. Upon his return, he became an integral part of the Scarlet Knights’ move to the Big Ten Conference and eventually went on to serve many different roles throughout the college athletics world with IMG College, Endeavor, and IMG Academy, where he spent the last four years as president.

Pernetti was also involved in creating the MLS’s New York City FC.

East Carolina University chancellor Philip Rogers said Pernetti’s experience and connections met the search committee’s criteria.

“The primary trait that led us to Tim Pernetti was his versatility,” Rogers explained. “He’s held executive and leadership positions in intercollegiate athletics, at national television networks, in marketing and branding, and most recently, in secondary education working with high-performing student-athletes.”

“All you have to do is listen to his remarks and hear his background to see how we checked off every single box in this process,” Rogers later added. “… We were looking for a winner, and that’s what we found in Tim Pernetti.”

Pernetti plans to jump in with a long list of objectives and become a sponge to learn the ropes and get well-informed. Still, with the ever-changing landscape of the industry, the challenges will remain, and Pernetti knows he faces a daunting task.

“While I have been in the business on the college campus and in the media industry, it’s changed dramatically in the last five years,” Pernetti explained. “… At the end of the day, we have to do our part to fight for the conference, to advocate for student-athletes, and to create more resources for these campuses because college campuses and athletic departments have never faced more challenges than they do today.”

As commissioner of the AAC, Pernetti will face many challenges as the world of college sports continues to evolve. While he refuses to use the terms “Power Five” and “Group of Five” when referring to conferences, the reality is the AAC is still a tier lower than the perceived power conferences.

The conference underwent significant changes last year, welcoming several new members from Conference USA after some of its more notable institutions left for the Big 12. The fallout from conference realignment didn’t stop there, as SMU, the conference’s defending football champion, agreed to join the ACC before the season and begins playing in its new conference this fall.

There has even been talk of an 80-team “super-league” that would likely leave most, if not all, AAC teams behind as “second-tier” athletic institutions.

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