With more seats to fill, athletic director prepares for season
University Athletic Director Tim Pernetti talks with The Daily Targum's News Editor Caitlin Mahon about the completion of the stadium expansion, changes to ticket sales, challenges in his new position and plans for the season.
Caitlin Mahon: On opening day, what can anyone who is coming to game expect to see?
Tim Pernetti: There will certainly be a lot more cars coming to the stadium than there were last year. The cool thing is a lot of people haven't seen it — any iteration of it at all — nevermind the folks who saw it at the beginning of the summer. But seeing the new end zone is going to be the one thing everyone is probably looking forward to. [People will also look forward to] seeing the new seats, seeing the new scoreboard, seeing the new entryway to the stadium off of River Road at the south end. The entire stadium [is] closed in, instead of where it was, [and] now you can walk all around the stadium. There are going to be a lot of things that people will be able to see. I think the scoreboard alone will be a wow factor for a lot of people because … it's massive. It's huge and it will produce in a lot of ways, like a television production is produced with a lot of game day elements, trying to keep fans involved in the game; the list goes on and on but most of all, I think people are excited to see what the new end zone looks like.
CM: You became the new athletic director at a controversial time for the University, with a lot of talk about athletic spending and the final stages of the stadium construction. What challenges did you face?
TP: I think this job at any university has its challenges. I think athletics in general at the collegiate level has its challenges. Nobody is immune from the economy right now … and everyone is challenged a little bit. I wouldn't lie to you and tell you I didn't pay attention to what was said and what was written. I have not spent a lot of time on what's happened in the past; I've spent all my time on trying to move things forward. I have spent a tremendous amount of time with the finances of the department and trying to make sure that we're organized, that we understand where everything is, that everything is transparent and we can explain it. And I really think that's what my job was to come in and do … to try to figure out a way to advance the athletic department here rather than try to think about what might have happened before I started — right, wrong, indifferent, true or false — and try to figure where to fix it. I'm really here to do the job and move forward.
CM: Richard Costello recently took over the new deputy director of athletics for finance and administration position. How is the position working out?
TP: It's working out well. Rick was hired by the University administration well before I was hired as the athletic director; he was hired last fall and was brought in, in response to various pieces of University business to assist with the finances in athletics. The position is working out very well. I think in an athletic department, a position that manages the day-to-day finances of the department is critical. I think especially now where athletics has become a very large business, it's important to have someone day-to-day manage the finances for your department and be able to manage all the financial pieces of your department. Everything from all the revenue coming in to all the expenses going out so I've been really pleased with the way its worked out. I think it will continue to be a positive for the department, to have somebody in a position like that who can work very closely with me to manage the finances of the department.
CM: Why are two different ticket packages and single game tickets being offered to the public, in addition to season tickets?
TP: I think if you look back to 2006 when the team had its 11-2 season, that was the time where obviously demand was at an all-time high. And a lot of people who didn't have season tickets got them, and those that didn't have season tickets but could get single game tickets got them. We haven't had the opportunity to offer a season ticket or even a single game ticket to the general public in three years. Since the Louisville game in 2006, we haven't had that opportunity. We're adding 11,000 new seats to the stadium so we thought it was a really good opportunity for us to get back to where we always wanted to be, which was to make it an inclusive opportunity, not exclusive. More seats, more opportunity to get more people to come to [games]. We're able to offer season tickets to the public for the first time in three years. The one thing I encouraged our guys to do was to try to partner with our fans. I think a lot of times, we are so distanced from the fans, it's hard to understand what they deal with when making decisions like this to purchase season tickets. I spoke to prospective season ticket holders personally about it, and that's why we launched into mini-season ticket plans. I think some people literally — based on their own financial situation — may have been right on the line with making a decision so we've partnered with fans from season tickets, mini-season tickets to single game tickets; we've really given our fans a ton of different opportunities out there that may fit them better. I think all of those things are an effort to try to make sure that we're appealing to our fans and we're giving them a lot of different options to come and experience Rutgers football.
CM: How many tickets are left for the season?
TP: Off the top of my head, I couldn't tell you. It really fluctuates on a game-by-game basis. I anticipate the Cincinnati game will be a sell-out. We have under 1,000 tickets left for that game. We have over 51,500 tickets sold and distributed for that game already, so I anticipate that it will be a sell-out. As far as what's left for the season, it's very hard to answer because it varies on a game-by-game basis.
— The second part of this interview will be featured on Tuesday, Sept. 8