Tom Jurich of Louisville and Tim Pernetti of Rutgers have been nominated for the athletic director of the year award, presented by Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily.
Both are well deserving of the honor, considering where they have each led their respective programs. First, Jurich. Under his watch, the Cardinals have become one of the top overall athletic departments in the nation after being on the brink of collapse when he arrived in 1997.
That success allowed him to outmaneuver UConn for a coveted spot in the ACC, which the Cardinals expect to join in 2014. His two biggest programs -- men's basketball and football -- were among the elite in 2012-13. The football team beat Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl; the men's basketball team is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Louisville has racked up more Big East titles in all sports than anybody save Notre Dame since joining the league in 2005.
Next, Pernetti. You want to talk about the biggest winner to date in conference realignment? It is Rutgers, which found a way into the Big Ten, a move that would have been laughable 10 years ago as the Scarlet Knights wallowed in the bottom of the Big East football cellar.
Certainly the New York market is extremely appealing to the Big Ten, which wants to expand its footprint East. But had the Scarlet Knights been a football cellar dweller, the appeal would have diminished. Rutgers just won a share of its first Big East football title and is no longer a laughingstock.
Pernetti has worked hard to reduce his program's dependence on university fees by coming up with innovative revenue ideas. He is among the handful of ADs in the country to negotiate a sponsorship for his on-campus stadium (Jurich has as well), and has parlayed his business experience into positioning Rutgers well into the future.
Both men have taken programs once considered also-rans into elite conferences, feats that deserve recognition. Also nominated for the AD award: Mike Holder of Oklahoma State, Mal Moore of Alabama and Jim Phillips of Northwestern.