SBJ/April 15-21, 2013/Opinion

Reconsidering honor of Rutgers, Pernetti for Sports Business Awards

Former Rutgers University Athletic Director Tim Pernetti was one of our five nominees for Athletic Director of the Year for the 2013 SBJ/SBD Sports Business Awards, which will be awarded on May 22. Pernetti was cited by our editorial committee for his work in gaining membership for his alma mater in the Big Ten and for positioning Rutgers for future business growth.

When we placed Pernetti on the list of nominees, we didn’t have all the facts about the actions and decisions of the Rutgers athletic department during the period under consideration. When disturbing video surfaced two weeks ago regarding the behavior of men’s basketball coach Mike Rice, and the subsequent decision by Pernetti and Rutgers leadership to maintain Rice’s employment, it caused us to reconsider. Our awards endeavor to recognize the best in sports business. Based on decisions Rutgers and Pernetti made last year, we cannot continue our recognition of the university and Pernetti’s leadership of the athletic program. Therefore, our editorial committee has decided to withdraw Pernetti’s nomination from this category.

We understand that this sets a precedent, but we don’t feel that recognizing him would be true to the spirit of the awards, fair to readers or, especially, the other nominees.

This wasn’t an easy decision. There are many sides to this story, and Pernetti’s full role isn’t clear, nor is he the only person at fault. But as a nominee for this honor, he represented not only himself and his actions, but the actions and reputation of his university, all of which have become tainted by this episode. Regardless of the advice from counsel or others about legal liability, there’s no denying that Pernetti and his superiors made the decision to retain a coach they knew was abusing players, verbally and physically.

Tim Pernetti will be heard from again in sports business. He is simply too talented not to be. But he won’t be recognized in the category of Athletic Director of the Year, and, as we move forward, we will highlight only the remaining four nominees in the category: Mike Holder of Oklahoma State, Tom Jurich of Louisville, the late Mal Moore of Alabama and Jim Phillips of Northwestern.

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