Golf Officer RJ Nemer New Dean University of Akron College of Business


AKRON — In the four times RJ Nemer reinvented himself, his decision first accompanied doubt.

“You’re like, ‘Am I in the right place? Was this the right thing? Is this the right pivot? Can I do this?'” Nemer said.

But when the former sports agent recently moved into the dean’s suite at the University of Akron College of Business, validation greeted him at the door.

On the outside wall hangs a plaque designating it “The Edward G. Elias Office of the Dean”.

“I walked in and saw this and all of a sudden it occurred to me that this is where I’m supposed to be,” Nemer said. “It’s about as comprehensive, it’s as poetic as you can see a professional journey.”

Born in Akron, Eddie Elias, a graduate of UA in 1951 who died in 1998, founded the Professional Bowlers Association. A lawyer, he also ran Eddie Elias Enterprises and represented athletes and entertainment celebrities. With a golf client list that included Tommy Bolt, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Fuzzy Zoeller, Elias was Nemer’s idol. Nemer worked with Elias’ daughter, Rainy, at the agency after Elias suffered a stroke in 1995.

“He was who I wanted to be when I grew up. He was my inspiration to start a sports agency,” Nemer said in a Jan. 29 phone interview.

When he saw the plaque, Nemer immediately snapped a photo and texted it to Rainy Elias Staniszewski.

“My hand was shaking a bit while I was texting,” Nemer said. “It’s something I will see every day and take as a reminder to take a minute, to stay enterprising, to stay in UA’s mission. It’s special. It’s overwhelming. It’s meaningful. It’s inspiring.

Staniszewski had tears in his eyes when he saw the photo.

“I said, ‘No way. It’s no coincidence. That feeling of that connection is still alive,'” she said in a Jan. 29 phone interview from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. “I was thinking how really happy my dad would be to know that.

“My father loved the University of Akron with all his heart. I want to know that RJ is there as dean, I feel like he’s carrying on Eddie’s spirit and keeping my dad’s memory alive. It’s so exciting. I felt very emotional, but warm at the same time because I feel comforted knowing that.

With degrees in Business Administration and Law from AU, Nemer fulfilled her dream of following in Elias’s footsteps. Nemer gave up his career as a tax lawyer in 1998 to found ICON Sports Management. In 2015, he sold ICON to William Morris Endeavour/IMG and ran his global golf brand from his Cleveland office. In December 2019, he accepted a position as Director of Marketing for MAI Capital Management in Cleveland.

But ultimately, Nemer wanted to teach. When a friend texted him about the UA opening, he took another leap and applied, knowing he was an unconventional candidate. He left MAI on Jan. 28 and started at UA on Monday in hopes of putting Elias’ favorite quote into practice.

In his office, Nemer said Elias had a piece of paper under the glass top of his marble desk that read, “Genius is eternal patience,” words that came from Michelangelo.

“Nothing listed. Not gold-plated. Just a quote. I think about it quite often,” Nemer said. “I remember feeling that when I started my agency. golf, which is a very tight circle that values ​​pedigree a lot. I didn’t grow up in the right country clubs, I didn’t play golf in the right schools. But I was patient.

RJ Nemer, dean of the College of Business at the University of Akron, holds a UA Zips pillow he made and a framed quote from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum in his office. (Photo: Mike Cardew/Akron Beacon Journal)

“Patience does nothing. Patience is just the nose to the grindstone, work as hard as you can but be patient for the results and it has paid off. I guess now that I look at this work in academia, I don’t belong in the circles. I don’t have the pedigree to say I’ve published X amount of research papers. I know I will have to work really hard, stay tenacious, listen twice as much as I talk, and be patient for the results to show.

Starting this fall, UA will have an undergraduate major in sports business and another in sports analysis, both under the management department of the College of Business. Nemer’s athletic connections set him apart from the other three finalists, all associate deans from across the country.

As the search firm was sifting through what Nemer said were “nearly 100 applicants,” it encountered a problem. He needed a reference from a boss, and Nemer had virtually none for 20 years. At IMG, he reported to a Hollywood agent in Beverly Hills, California, who signed his quarterly financial reports.

So Nemer put his fate in the hands of a golfer he managed. He chose his second client, Matt Gogel, among other better known ones.

A former Nike Tour player, Gogel brought Nemer his first PGA Tour victory at the AT&T National Pro-Am in 2002. Now playing the PGA Tour Champions, which stops at Akron’s Firestone Country Club in July, Gogel has gave Nemer part of her purse, an Omega Constellation watch.

“Nobody had ever given me anything so big, so expensive, so decadent in my life. It was a big deal,” Nemer said. wrote was, “RJ, you’re the real champion”, which was really nice but not really true.”

Gogel was surprised to learn that Nemer still had the watch.

“RJ is a bit of a renaissance person. He likes beautiful things. I think, ‘I think he’d like it more than me,'” Gogel said Sunday in a phone interview from Kansas City. “It wasn’t even a second thought. I had no idea it would mean so much to him. I’m glad it did. He did a lot more for me than I could do for him.

Sanford International 2021

Matt Gogel hits his second shot on the 5th hole during the final round of the Sanford International at Minnehaha Country Club on September 19, 2021 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. (Photo: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Gogel said he was honored to give a recommendation for Nemer.

“RJ is one of those refreshing people in a world where sometimes people can take advantage and be deceptive,” Gogel said. “His sense of organization is top notch. He doesn’t get angry. His advice and his way of handling delicate situations are a major asset for the university.

“I still have things where I’m going, ‘What would be RJ’s approach here?’ because he’s so calm and calculated that I’m like a knee jerk. His favorite words to me have always been, ‘Calm down now, Matt, calm down.’ I might not even be annoyed by what He just takes a very calm approach, and he’s a winner.

After his first victory, Gogel recalled that a friend working for a global golf brand had offered him a contract above the norm for a player of his level. He refused it.

“I said, ‘I can’t sign this.’ He said, ‘Why not?’ and I said, ‘Because RJ has already connected me with a few other companies and they’re going to pay me a lot more.’ He almost fell off his chair,” Gogel said. “He said, ‘RJ?’ He was a one-man show. I said, ‘I’ve been telling you for two years, he’s the best person you’ll ever meet.’

“They got to know each other and became good friends. This person did not trust the agents, she always thought she was looking for the biggest contract possible. RJ just isn’t like that. In a shark company, he was not that kind of person. He was frank, he was honest.

Gogel had a similar experience last year at an outdoor restaurant in California. He overheard a conversation between six husbands and wives and Nemer’s name came up.

“That was all I wanted people to hear. He would never sell,” Gogel said of Nemer. “They were shining in this business, there’s never been a guy like RJ, so honest…and look what he’s capable of and now he’s turned around in this business. That’s what we all want, to be a good person, and that’s what RJ is.

Gogel said in his recommendation that his brother-in-law attended Harvard Business School and cited what he told her was the most memorable part of his Ivy League studies.

“What he’s found most compelling are the guest speakers, whether it’s Bill Clinton, all the way to the executives of Fortune 500 companies. RJ has those contacts,” Gogel said. “I think if I’m student, I’d be most excited to learn from the best, and RJ can bring in those types of people who have experienced real-world businesses, from startups to large corporations. It’s just a great asset that Akron will have.

Nemer said Ohio University has one of the best sports management programs in the country, but he wants UA to compete. When the program launches this fall, Nemer is looking forward to bringing in guest speakers, which will include agents, corporate executive vice presidents with sports connections, team owners or business leaders, and industry personalities. ESPN. He wants to set up UA students with internships, perhaps cultivated in dating sessions.

“He’s like my dad where he treats everyone the same,” she said. “He will be there and involved and talk to everyone and have an open door policy. I see it so accessible.

“He can do anything. He’s such an entrepreneur, just like my father. He’s got the personality, he’s got the connections, he’s got the energy, and he wants it. When he wants something, he just goes after it.

If doubt creeps in again as Nemer takes another unknown path, he can look at the Elias plaque, which some would call a wink of God.

“I read this book, all about the absence of coincidences, and I believe in it,” he said. “I think my life has been full of that, so I’ve been very lucky that way.”

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