The AD Arrives
with Tim Pernitious
ARR Weekly: Tim Pernitious, you've recently
become Athletic Director at Rutgers University. Before that,
if we're not mistaken, you were a color commentator on the Rutgers
football radio network. Is that correct?
TP: That's correct.
ARR: Tim, a number of
our readers have asked how, exactly, that prepares a person for
an administrative appointment at an institution of higher learning. For instance, Mark M. of Edison, NJ, reports
that whenever the Rutgers football team gained ground in a game,
you would invariably say things like "THAT'S WHAT YOU'VE
GOT TO DO IF YOU WANT TO WIN THE GAME! Nivens goes out on the
cross check, and Simpson runs the slant, and you get the block
and you pick up seven. That's the kind of thing you've got to
do." Did you actually say stuff like that?
TP: I did.
TP: It's what you say.
ARR: We see. Well, take
an opposite case. Harold A. of Bethesda, MD, Rutgers class of
'57, claims that whenever the Rutgers football team failed to
gain ground you could be counted on to say things like "THAT'S
WHAT YOU CAN'T DO IF YOU WANT TO WIN THE GAME! Bliven goes out
on the counter inside pattern and runs the flyboot route, but
Dickleston forgets to look away the pass defense and Kontowski
comes across and nearly gets the interception. You can't do that
if you're want to win the game." Did you say that as well?
TP: It's the job. You
say what happened. Then you point out that you can or can't do
that thing if you want to win the game.
ARR: But it seems so
banal. Mindless blather, if you'll pardon the expression.
TP: It's what people
tune in for.
ARR: All right. Let's
turn to a major issue. Ever since you were appointed athletic
director, we've had a flood of letters claiming that you were
totally unqualified for an administrative appointment at Rutgers.
We'd like to ask you a few questions about that.
ARR: A preliminary question.
Rutgers is currently spending $55 million a year on what many
regard as lower-level professional athletics. The bulk of that
goes to football and basketball. Can you explain why you think
an institution of higher learning should be sponsoring semi-pro
TP: Hey, you've got
to have a football franchise. Look at South Florida. Look at
Cincinnati. Look at Boise State. Same with basketball. Look at
Louisville. Look at Tennessee. You don't want Rutgers to be as
good as South Florida and Louisville?
ARR: Actually, we want
Rutgers to be a great deal better than places like South Florida
and Louisville. But as an institution of higher learning, not
as a sports factory.
TP: Hey, if you didn't
have a franchise, who'd provide weekend entertainment for the
legislators and the boosters?
ARR: So you think the
purpose of Rutgers University should be to provide weekend entertainment
for state legislators and sports boosters?
TP: (perplexed) What
else could it be?
ARR: Let's try another
tack. At some schools -- Div III schools, and non-athletic-scholarship
schools like the Ivies and Colgate and Lafayette and other Patriot
League members -- regular undergraduates go out for the football
team or the basketball team or the crew in just the same way
as their classmates go out for the student newspaper or the orchestra
or a production of Waiting for Godot. It's called the
participatory model of college athletics. Is there anything wrong
TP: Everything is wrong.
For one thing, that so called "participatory" model
would destroy our athletics department. You pointed out yourself
that we're spending $55 million a year on athletics. Do you have
any idea of what would happen if we abolished athletic scholarships,
paid coaches the kind of money they get at places like Colgate
and Harvard, and just had students going out for the team? Our
athletics budget would shrink to maybe $8-9 million a year. Do
the math. That's a drop of over $45 million a year right there.
ARR: Many people think
that the money would be far better spent on seminar rooms, lecture
halls, student theater facilities, solidly-built dormitories,
library acquisitions, and such. They point out that Rutgers has
what is widely known as a "slum campus." The money
could be used for renovation. Do you see any logic there?
TP: No. You do that
for two or three years and Rutgers is going to sink right down
to the level of places like Columbia or Princeton. The boosters
wouldn't stand for it.
ARR: We see. Well, moving
right along, Tim Pernitious, in a recent newspaper story you
talk about your marketing skills. You must be aware that many
thoughtful people object to the the way commercialized Div IA
sports is turning universities into marketing vehicles for corporate
brands. Does that upset you at all?
TP: (scratching his
head) Errr . . . You mean there's people who don't think you
should run Rutgers as a marketing operation? But it is a
marketing operation. Look, you've got the TV contracts, and the
radio contract, and marketing slogans like "Global Roots,
New Jersey Reach," and the tie-in with Nelligan Sports,
and ads on NJ Transit, and commercial sponsors, and promotions
like the Hello, Scarlet Knights books, and Greg's teams
always going off to like the Pizza Bowl and the Weedwacker Bowl
and all. . . . What do they think all that's about?
ARR: We hate to tell
you, but many of our alumni consider all that to be obscene --
the equivalent of turning Rutgers into a JIffy Lube franchise.
They think that anyone who goes around talking about a "Rutgers
brand" ought to be held up to public disgrace.
TP: Do they know about
the cross-check pattern and the inside flyboot and "Go Rutgers!"
and all that?
ARR: They do, Tim Pernitious,
TP: My goodness.
ARR: There's one more
thing. Many people have observed that trying to turn Rutgers
into a sports factory is driving away top NJ students and drawing
thousands of lowlifes who "hate school" and live only
to get drunk and drag Rutgers through the dirt by their behavior
at football and basketball games. Do you have anything to say
TP: (stoutly) "Drag
Rutgers through the dirt?" That's pretty strong.
ARR: Why, Tim Pernitious,
you're the new athletic director. Do you really not know that
thousands of lowlife "students" attracted by big time
sports are dragging Rutgers' reputation through the dirt?
TP: Nobody's told me
ARR: Well, we do happen
to be in the age of the internet. Why don't we just pause for
a moment and let you see what we're talking about. Maybe our
readers would like to look as well:
TP: (crestfallen) Okay.
Well. Jeez. I see. Hey, I've got an idea. Why don't we talk about
my initiative to make the Rutgers football franchise popular
with guys in sports bars.
ARR: What initiative?
TP: (proudly) my Twitter
ARR: And what, exactly,
might that be?
TP: (genuinely astonished)
You don't know TWITTER?
ARR: No. Sorry.
TP: It's a technology,
you send out text bytes and there's a list of contacts and everybody
knows who's taking to everybody else and it's really exciting,
you can look at it five hundred times a day and not get bored.
Twitter. You don't know Twitter?
ARR: And what, exactly,
does this have to do with your football franchise?
TP: (proudly) I've set
up a Twitter account for the Rutgers athletics department. I
call it the Twitter Initiative.
ARR: So people can send
TP: And we can send
THEM messages. All the time. Short messages, so you don't have
to use big words or anything. It's really exciting! Greg and
I send each other tweets about every five minutes.
TP: (animatedly) Tweets
are these little bytes that you send and other people can see
what you're sending and you can see who they are and it's really
neat, like being popular in 4th grade.
AAR: And, so far, that's
your only accomplishment?
TP: (proudly) Only?
I call it a breakthrough. You don't see Louisville getting their
brand around with tweets. You don't see South Florida doing it.
ARR: We see. Tim Pernitious,
we thank you for your time. We'd like to end with one last question.
A reader asks -- this just came in -- if you're the sort of person
who wears sun glasses perched up on his hair?
TP: (shyly) Oh, you
noticed. It's my new look. I started doing it when I held a pep
meeting for athletics department staff. To tell them about the
Twitter initiative. They ate it up.
ARR: Tim Pernitious,
thanks once again. We understand your point of view a great deal