By Kristian Dyer
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Tuesday’s news that Rutgers had received a verbal commitment from a national recruit, Florida linebacker Skai Moore, was another recruiting victory for a Scarlet Knights program that is piecing together another Top 25-caliber recruiting class.
But the commitment of Moore is bigger than just an individual recruiting battle that went the way of Rutgers.
It is proof that Tim Pernetti is the best athletic director in the nation.
Last night, Rivals.com affiliate site Scarlet Nation reported that Moore, a three-star linebacker out of Fort Lauderdale, gave a verbal commitment to Rutgers. Moore was a highly-coveted national recruit with offers from Nebraska, Ohio State, Texas A&M and the like. He fell in love with Rutgers during a visit this past summer and always seemed like a lean towards the program, but the move to the Big Ten helped solidify his commitment. The football program is now with the big boys, and while Rutgers had always sold athletes and their parents on their exemplary academics and their “F.A.M.I.L.Y.” atmosphere, playing in the Big Ten appeals to national recruits such as Moore.
Rutgers landed him in large part because Pernetti was able to do the impossible and get Rutgers out from the sinking ship that was (and is) the Big East, and into a power player in college football.
Others like Moore will be drawn to the school, and intrigued if only because they play in the Big Ten and major national exposure comes with that conference. Moore is the first recruit to have the conference switch make such a major impact on his decision.
But he won’t be the last, hence the genius that is Pernetti. Rutgers is set to touch the “Skai” and land even more national recruits with their move to the Big Ten.
Rewind back to April 1, 2009, when Pernetti left an executive position at CBS and took over the athletic department. At that time Rutgers was in crisis. An economic downturn had affected giving to the school and threatened the athletic budget. The football program was muddled in the middle of the not-so-great Big East, the men’s basketball program was still not on track and many of the other sports were rather average at best. There was a perception that Rutgers athletics was a joke, a non-issue in a sports landscape dominated by professional teams.
Now on the verge of the holiday season, Pernetti — through the force of his personality and a grand vision — has changed that whole perception. And with his five-year contract expiring in April of 2014, Rutgers needs to consider locking up its biggest asset for as long as possible.
Rutgers is set by the fall of 2013 to enter the Big Ten Conference, a move that makes the program very relevant on the national stage and sets in motion profitability that will sustain the athletic department along with academic ventures. This puts all sports on the big stage, with national exposure on the Big Ten Network and a revenue stream that will turn Rutgers athletics from something that bleeds red into something that is in the black.
It is a move that seemed impossible just a month ago, but it isn’t the only thing that Pernetti has done right since taking over the athletic program.
There was his deft handling of Eric LeGrand’s tragic injury in 2010, in which he made the life and health and well-being of a student athlete the utmost of priorities.
When his men’s basketball program needed to move on from head coach Fred Hill, the shrewd Pernetti handled it well with the hiring of the young and energetic Mike Rice, who has things finally headed in the right direction.
Then, when Greg Schiano left as head coach of the program last January, it was Pernetti who deftly handled the situation, keeping the top recruiting class in program history intact and making a shrewd move to promote Kyle Flood to head coach. A 9-3 season followed, and Rutgers is headed to their most prestigious postseason berth to date, the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando on December 28.
There is no doubt that Pernetti has done perhaps more for Rutgers during his short spell here than any other athletic director. And as Skai Moore proved on Tuesday night, things will only get more exciting in the future.
Kristian R. Dyer covers Rutgers football for Metro New York and also contributes to Yahoo! Sports. He can be followed on Twitter here for insight, news and snarky comments.
How successful do you think Rutgers will be in the Big 10? Will they ever contend with the likes of Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, etc.? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…