Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why Pitt is Failing- and How They Can Succeed

It's been over thirty years since Jackie Sherrill left the University of Pittsburgh for Texas A&M University and the Pitt football program has never recovered. In the 33 seasons since Sherrill left, including this season, Pitt finished in the top 25 just six times. They've also only finished in the top 10 just once and that was No. 10 the year after Sherrill left. After that there have been three decades of mediocrity for Pitt. Why, and what can be done, if anything, to change this long futility? What does the program possess that could help them be a power, and what does it need that it doesn't have now? And most importantly, will the university ever identify and then improve on their weaknesses? Some of those answers follow.

What Pitt has:

1.  Tradition- At first this seems contradictory to what I've already written and what will follow, but believe it not Pitt does have tradition. Western Pennsylvania loves football, and Pitt is still the most popular college football in the area. The high school kids now haven't experienced Pitt at their best, but their parents, coaches, teachers, uncles, etc. grew up with, and have an affection for, Pitt. Good luck talking to any Pittsburgh sports fan that doesn't wax poetic about Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, Ironhead Hayward, Larry Fitzgerald, and many others. 

2.  Recruiting area- We've heard many times that the Pittsburgh area doesn't have the same amount of top prospects now than they did in the 1970s, and that's true, but it's also an overrated problem. Even in the loaded 70s and early 80s, the program usually would only land 7 or 8 WPIAL prospects, not the 20 that many assume. But then most of the top prospects went to Pitt. Very few were lost to an outside program, including Penn State. 

If the Panthers landed the top programs in the WPIAL from recent years, Aaron Donald would have been paired with Delvon Simmons at defensive tackle, instead of having to be a one man wrecking crew. Simmons went to Texas Tech and currently is at USC where he's starring. Robert Foster and Troy Apke would join Tyler Boyd at wide receiver instead of Boyd being the only wide receiver that is currently capable of producing. The current weak secondary would be loaded with Demetrious Cox, Montae Nicholson, Malik Hooker, and Dravon Henry. Chase Winovich and Khaleke Hudson would be huge additions to the future linebacker corps. 

Paul Chryst has landed some good WPIAL prospects, and even a few excellent ones, but most of the top five prospects from the WPIAL, i.e. the ones with great options, usually go elsewhere. This also happened to a lesser degree with Dave Wannstedt, too. When Pitt was a top program, it wasn't even an option for most kids to go elsewhere. There was an excellent program right in their own backyard so why go anywhere else? 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Pitt can live with local prospects alone. But the elite Pitt teams didn't either. Many of the best Pitt players ever came from outside the WPIAL. And that's what Pitt still has to do but that's possible because the recruiting regions outside of western PA are still good. There are many excellent players in eastern PA, Washington, DC, Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Michigan, and of course like everybody else, Pitt can try to get players out of the unbelievably fertile state of Florida.

3. Conference- The ACC has been a disappointment as a football conference, but it's still a Power 5 conference, and any football program in one of the five major conferences should be capable of being at least a top 25 program. In other words, Pitt is one of the haves in the college football world when it comes to a conference. That's a huge advantage. Just ask UConn or Cincinnati. 

4. Campus and city- Not every kid wants to go to school in a city but on the other hand many do. And it's a world class city at that. Any real Pittsburgher knows that the city routinely finds itself on favorable top 10 lists. In fact, hardly a month goes by that Pittsburgh doesn't find itself on a top 10 list that shows how awesome the city is. Enormous advantages can be gained by going to school in a major city. Do you want to be an FBI agent some day? Well, as luck would have it, you can possibly intern at the Pittsburgh FBI office like some past Pitt athletes have. You want to work in medicine? Well, UPMC is one of the highest rated hospitals in the country. Law is your dream? Pick a major law firm because you'll get a lot in a major city. Bottom line, you have more career advantages in a major city like Pittsburgh than you would in someplace like Morgantown or State College. 

As for the campus, it's beautiful and dominates an entire section of an exciting, busy section of a wonderful city. The Cathedral of Learning is one of the most famous school buildings in the entire world and it rises above the horizon like a beacon. Like I said, it's not for everybody, but most kids that actually visit are very impressed by both the city and the campus.


5. Money- I get asked all the time if Pitt has the money to be a major college program. The answer is yes. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. But having the money and the willingness to spend it are two different things.

How much money does Pitt have? Well, let's start with a 3 billion dollar endowment. No, that's not a misprint. Pitt gets 3 BILLION dollars to invest and to run the university. That's the same as the entire Penn State school system. It's also just a hair under Ohio State, one billion more than Wisconsin, 700 million more than Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Washington, three times more than West Virginia, Baylor and Iowa, and more than twice the amount of Michigan State, UCLA, Florida, Missouri, and Nebraska, just to name a few.

In a 2011 article by Forbes Magazine Pitt was rated the second fastest growing endowment of any university in the country. And it's gone up a half of a BILLION dollars since then, just three years ago. Pitt has the 29th biggest endowment in the country, as of 2013, and the 13th biggest endowment of any Power 5 conference. You read that right. Only 12 universities that play major college football in the entire country have a bigger endowment than the University of Pittsburgh. Throw in the fact that the university's tuition was also just named the highest for any public university in the nation and you should scoff at any notion that Pitt can't afford to be a major college football program.

Of course it's true that that 3 billion dollars is allocated for the university and not for just the football program. But it's naive to think that the above mentioned universities, with much less endowment, can pay significantly more for their football programs. And don't use the argument that Pitt doesn't have a Phil Knight or a T. Boone Pickens. Do you know why every college football fan knows about their extravagant donations for their respective football programs? Because it's an anomaly. They're the only two who have given obscene amounts of money for sports. No, Pitt doesn't have a single over the top booster, but neither does just about anybody else.



What Pitt has to do:

1. Spend the money- All that money is useless if the school won't spend it. And Pitt has a long history of not spending it. Remember that Jackie Sherrill reference in the first paragraph of this post? The reason he left was because Pitt wouldn't pay him to stay. That was 33 years ago. At the time they decided that Foge Fazio, a great defensive coordinator, would merely be promoted. The university figured that they could save the money it would have to pay Sherrill with the assumption that Fazio would not miss a beat. But Fazio did miss a beat, and the result is that Pitt's football program has been beat to death ever since.

The salary of every head coach that followed was just as average as the next. Even Dave Wannstedt, a big name, famous alum, and former NFL Coach of the Year, was paid an average salary for a major college program.

Pitt's style is not to pay big money for a better shot at a sure thing. Instead they try to find a sleeper that they can get for a little less money. That's okay if you have the ability to find those coaches, but Pitt can't. There have been a lot of desperate times over the last three decades when the administration really needed to step up and pay money for somebody to stop the bleeding. Instead they were thrifty each and every time.

They've never went out and outbid another school for a big time coach. Mike Gottfried was hired after he turned lowly Kansas into a 6-6 team. Paul Hackett they got cheap because he merely got promoted and had no head coaching experience. The second stint of Johnny Majors? How awful this hire was, as well as the others, will be discussed later, but for now let's just say it was a cheap hire.

After Majors' second stint Steve Pederson made what turned out to be a solid hire in Walt Harris but the program was at an all time low then. If there was ever a desperate time to pay a big time coach to come in and right the ship this was the time. A quarterback coach from Ohio State and an unsuccessful head coaching stint at Pacific really doesn't match that criteria. But against all odds, and much to his credit, Harris turned Pitt into a better than average program.

Harris was replaced by Wannstedt, who didn't command the salary that many think. He wasn't going to get paid more by anybody else because he just quit on the Miami Dolphins in midseason and people weren't lining up to hire him as their head coach. It was a good hire by Pitt, but it was also a relatively cheap one. If Wannstedt wanted to be a head coach he was not going to get better than Pitt. He was used up as far as being a head coach. After he was fired came Michael Haywood, who was coming from that college football juggernaut Miami, OH. Needless to say, he didn't cost much.

After Haywood was dismissed (more on that later), Pitt was forced to pay a little more to go back to their first choice Todd Graham.  First Pitt offered 1.3 million for Graham, an amount he was already offered at Tulsa. Apparently the Pitt administration thought their 1.3 million came in crisper bills. When Graham said no, the administration upped it to 1.6 million. Graham still balked so Pitt eventually got to nearly 2 million. Graham finally said yes.

Graham got the going rate for somebody with his resume, though it took Pitt awhile to get there. In fact, Pitt was so cheap on their first attempt that they ended up hiring Haywood instead. Their initial refusal to give Graham he was worth cost Pitt many headaches with Haywood.

Of course the university should not just throw money at a prospective head coach just to do it. It has to be the perfect candidate. But Pitt doesn't even look to take an established major college head coach. Arkansas, who has an endowment of less than one billion, paid Bret Bielema almost 3 million a year to leave Wisconsin, and also paid for his buyout. Tennessee paid Butch Jones 3.2 million to leave Cincinnati, while also supplying the buyout. Washington paid 3.4 million to Chris Petersen to leave Boise State. Cincinnati paid Tommy Tuberville 3.2 million to leave Texas Tech. Clearly Cincinnati was a school that was sick of coaches leaving and they paid a lot to a coach that was desperate to get out of Lubbock. But they wanted to make sure they got a proven winner who wouldn't leave and they made it happen by paying him accordingly.

Chryst makes 1.8 million, and because he has no track record it's understandable why he makes less than those coaches. But then that's the point. Why pay almost 2 million a year for somebody with no head coaching experience when one to one and half million more, Pitt could land a coach like Bielema, Jones, or Petersen? All three coaches were hired at schools that has a significantly lower endowment. Of course it takes more than just salary to land this level of head coach. It takes commitment in every facet. But it's the first very big sign that a program is serious.

Of course that's just one way to land a top coach. Pitt could also target the right coach from a smaller program, as Mississippi did with Hugh Freeze, Baylor did with Art Briles, or Wisconsin did with Gary Anderson. But more on that later.

As for a staff budget, since Pitt does not disclose how much they pay (pretty revealing), it's hard to say just how they compare for sure, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it's average at best. Past coordinators like Matt Cavanaugh, Phil Bennett, and Frank Cignetti, Jr., had enough on their resume that they probably got the going rate, and Joe Rudolph probably got a nice amount to follow Chryst, but it's no secret that the Panthers don't keep hot assistants for long.

Bottom line, Pitt pays what their head coaches and staffs are worth. The problem with that is, because both the head coaches and their staffs are only average they are only getting paid an average amount. It's not rocket science. You get what you pay for and what Pitt is paying for is mediocrity.

EDIT: Apparently some are misunderstanding about what I'm saying with the endowment. Just to be clear, it's not as if Pitt gets to spend 3 billion dollars. It's an investment used to run the school, give out scholarships, etc. My point is that any university with that much of an endowment has large amounts of money moving through it. That money is not necessarily for the football program, and in fact only a small percentage would be allocated for that by donors. But it is indicative of the massive amounts of money that donors give to the university. And even if that money is not for the football program per se it shows that the football program has the potential to tap into the same donors for football if the university gives them a reason to do so. In other words, the money is out there.

2. Fire the athletic director- Of all the things that the university can do immediately to get things back on track, this is the quickest. Fire Steve Pederson. Do it as soon as possible. And then don't look back. The case can't even be made that Pederson is polarizing because the truth is, he's almost universally disliked by fans, alumni, and former players.

Let's start with his decision to change Pitt's brand. This was the first sign that Pederson was completely out of touch with not only the university but also with how major college football is run. A team's brand is essential. It's so essential that Jamie Dixon resisted moving from the Big East to the ACC at first because he was worried that it would hurt the Pitt basketball brand. And that's just from moving from one excellent basketball conference to another.

A unique brand lets you stand out from the masses. Schools would kill to have a unique brand. Pitt was one of the lucky few that had one. Everybody in college sports knows of "Pitt". So what does Pederson do? He changed from "Pitt" to "Pittsburgh". No matter how many excuses Pederson makes, this was a truly awful idea. "Pitt" tells people that it's the University of Pittsburgh. "Pittsburgh" makes people think of the Steelers, rivers, and steel mills.

Then there is the stadium issue, which I will go into more detail below. The idea of sharing a practice facility was an excellent one, as was building an excellent arena for basketball and other school functions. But the move to Heinz Field is hurting the program, and Pederson's stubborn refusal to admit this is a slap in the face to anybody with a brain.

The most important job for an athletic director at most major college sports universities, including Pitt, is supplying an accomplished football program. Football is where the money is. A well run football program can help fund all of the other sports. One that is badly run can make a university bleed money. And the best way to have a successful one is by hiring an excellent head coach. Unfortunately for Pitt fans, Pederson has proven to be a disaster at the process.

Pederson's first football hire at Pitt was Harris. As I stated before Harris did a great job of getting Pitt back from embarrassment and Pederson deserves credit for that. It wasn't a home run hire, but ultimately it has to be considered a success. Harris was eventually left go by then athletic director Jeff Long after Harris went 25-13 in his last three years.

Wannstedt was hired by Long but then fired by Pederson after six seasons. Wannstedt was 42-31 at Pitt, but 25-12 in the last three seasons. Wannstedt was not Pederson's hire and it seems pretty obvious that Pederson was looking for the chance to get rid of him. That chance came when Wannstedt was 7-5 for Pitt in 2010. The two previous seasons Wannstedt was 9-4 and 10-3.

To be honest, I think the firing of a Wannstedt was a good decision. I personally called for it myself just before it happened. Wannstedt had peaked. He was not going to get the Panthers back to anything more than an occasional borderline top 25 team, and frankly Pitt has the potential to be better than that. For that reason I had no problem with firing Wannstedt if Pitt came up with somebody better. But that wasn't the case.

Not only did Pederson make an egregious error by letting Wannstedt turn his departure into a near coup at his press conference, but Pederson followed it up by "improving" the coaching situation by hiring Michael Haywood. If there's anybody out there that still questions whether or not Pederson should be fired, first pity them, then say "Michael Haywood".

Haywood was a career assistant until a two year stint at Miami, OH, had the personality of a garden slug, and had red flags in his personal life. Pederson inexplicably either didn't know about Haywood's red flags or chose to ignore it. But the red flags were known. ESPN national football writer Pat Forde reported that at least one school shied away from Haywood because of those red flags.

When I heard that Haywood was hired, I did something I've never done and that's immediately come out against it as a horrible hire. Haywood was such a bad candidate that I didn't even have him on my list of 30 possible candidates. When Haywood gave his introductory press conference the fans saw why. To call it a disaster is an understatement. Haywood babbled incoherently and at one point I'm almost positive that he was speaking in tongues. Even the Pitt players at the time were baffled by what the administration was doing. When Haywood was fired two weeks later after allegedly beating his girlfriend the current players publicly admitted that they were shocked by how incompetent Haywood seemed.

After Haywood was dismissed, Pitt was forced to go back to Graham, who Pederson wanted in the first place. Graham eventually reached a deal with Pitt after Pederson allegedly gave Graham the budget he wanted. It wasn't long before Graham, according to him, apparently realized that Pederson was not living up to his promises, and that he was not fitting in at Pitt. Obviously a lot of that is on Graham and his lack of commitment. He's a pathetic weasel. That itself does not eliminate somebody from being a head coach, obviously. There are a lot of big time coaches that are not overflowing with morals. And Graham is obviously a good coach. In fact, he's the most talent Pitt head coach since Sherrill left. But Pederson is the guy that sat down with Graham before hiring him. And his instincts told him that he was a good fit. Clearly he was wrong. A head coach and an athletic director have to have a symbiotic relationship for them to have success. But Graham and Pederson were like oil and water. Graham despised Pederson so much that he snuck out in the middle of the night, as weasels do.  But Pederson hired that weasel and should have known that two weasels don't get along well.

After Graham left, Pederson wanted Al Golden or Paul Rhoads. Golden wouldn't even talk to Pitt and Rhoads had no desire to leave his alma mater for Pitt. By this time Pederson made the Pitt coaching job a toxic situation and anybody that had options were not interested in working with Pederson. The final three of Mario Cristobal, Paul Chryst, and Luke Fickle were not exactly a scintillating trio. Even so, the apparent next in line was Cristobal, and that fell through too.

Finally, boosters got even more involved, including one that is close with Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez, who was pushing his offensive coordinator, Chryst, to Pitt. The plan worked for them. Whether it will work for Pitt and Chryst is still to be determined, but it's pretty telling that Chryst was not even responsible for this hire. Pederson desires head coaching experience, which Chryst did not have, so he didn't even get the type of candidate that he likes.

So Pederson wasn't allowed to hire the last head coach and now they've obviously gone around him to bring the "Pitt" back to Pitt. Why exactly is he still there? Especially since so many dispise him. There's not many times that an athletic director has routine coups against him from boosters and former players, but that's what has happened with Pederson.

One of the main excuses to keep Pederson from his apologists is that Dixon likes him. It's true. Dixon does like him. After all, Dixon gets paid a large amount of money for a basketball coach and his team is playing in a beautiful arena. And in the past Dixon may have taken another job if Pederson left. It's no secret that I highly respect Dixon but keeping a hated and incompetent AD just to appease him is not a good way to do business. It's football that needs to pay the bills at Pitt, not basketball. If there was a choice between a great football coach and a great basketball coach, Pitt should go with football. If Dixon would need to be sacrificed then so be it. But that is the worst case scenario. And it assumes that the new AD couldn't also work well with Dixon, who's not a petulant child. If you give him a competent AD who pays off his promises then Dixon would not go anywhere. And now Dixon won't be going anywhere anyway. His last contract was so lucrative in money and years that now he's cemented in at Pitt for a long time.

When all is said in done, the most successful basketball coach (Dixon) and the most successful football coach (Wannstedt) that Pitt has had in decades were both hired when Pederson was at Nebraska.

3. Get commitment and competency from the top: Chancellor Mark Nordenberg is an excellent man and was fantastic as the president of the university. Unfortunately he was also awful for the football program. And that begins with his total commitment to Pederson.

As discussed previously, Pederson is despised by most people that follow Pitt. That's enough to dismiss Pederson. After all, they are paying for the tickets and the merchandise, and they are donating  the money. But Nordenberg showed often that he was delusional when it comes to Pitt football. After all, this is the man who sat down with both Haywood and Graham in his office and then gave his approval. Pederson has stunk in his hirings but Nordenberg kept letting him do it, even after his failures were obvious. How oblivious was Nordenberg to what was going on? Let's examine some quotes he made after he announced his retirement.

Nordenberg: "People today are more proud of Pitt then they were in the mid-1990s... I think within the athletic department we've seen that same kind of change of culture. There's no comparison of what we had 20 years ago."

Truth: Pitt's facilities throughout their sports programs are better, though they were so bad a few decades ago that it's almost impossible not to improve.  And they are now down a football stadium (big negative).  But other than wrestling and basketball (and don't think for a second that Pederson would have promoted Dixon to coach), none of the sports are nationally recognized. And let me ask you Pitt fans. Are you proud of how Wannstedt exited? What about the hiring and firing of Haywood, or the disaster that was Graham? How about that loss to Akron this year or a 28 point loss as a favorite on homecoming? Sorry, but Pitt fans are anything but proud of the football program.

Nordenberg (on moving to Heinz Field): "People would say to me, 'This has got to be the hardest decision you've ever made.' I would say, 'It was actually one of the easiest decisions I've ever made and one of the hardest to sell.' Far more students attend games at Heinz Field than we had at Pitt Stadium. Now, it's an event for our students."

Truth: Ugh. I don't know if it's delusions or denial, but the kids weren't going to Pitt Stadium in the mid-90s because the program was at an all time low. Now students stand in long lines to get to and from the stadium and few stay around for the fourth quarter. Pitt football is anything but an event for the few that even bother to attend.

Nordenberg hired Pederson originally and then went right back to him after Pederson's disastrous tenure at his alma mater, Nebraska. In between stints Nordenberg hired Jeff Long, who he then let leave to Arkansas. Long is now considered one of the best ADs in the country. Long makes 900k at Arkansas and is the 11th highest paid AD. Peterson makes about 600k and is the 34th highest paid AD. The difference between one of the most revered ADs in the country and Pederson is just $300,000. And it's an AD that Pitt let go because they didn't want to pay him. Like head coaches, staff, stadium, and recruiting budget Pitt paid a little less than what is required to get the best.

Now Nordenberg and Jerry Cochran are out of the picture. Cochran was Nordenberg's right hand man for twenty years. He also handled the business side at Pitt, including negotiating contracts. He was a powerful man behind the scenes. He also, like Nordenberg, hurt the development of the football program by trying to get a great deal instead of a great coach.

Whether or not the replacements for Nordenberg and Cochran will do any better, time will tell. But when your football program has been struggling for three decades, and the people responsible for two of those bad decades are gone, then you have a golden opportunity to run the football program the way competent people would run it.

4. Build your own stadium: Yeah, I said it. Deal with it. Students and players should get the most out the college experience and Heinz Field does not provide that. People want to feel like they're at a college football game, but watching Pitt playing at Heinz Field is like watching a semi-pro game. There's no atmosphere. It's like playing in a morgue. Even if Pitt was a winner it would not be as exciting as possibly every other major college program in the country.

Pitt's zenith at Heinz Field was during the Cincinnati game when Wannstedt was the coach and the Panthers nearly won the Big East and made it to a BCS bowl. It was much more exciting than it is now but it still paled in comparison to the truly exciting college football stadiums.

It hurts recruiting and it hurts when trying to land a head coach. Any kid that visits Heinz Field and then goes to Morgantown or State College notice a big difference in atmosphere. Pitt will never have over 100,000 fans like Penn State but there's no reason why they shouldn't at least have the atmosphere of a big WVU game. When Pitt and WVU both play big games at night at the same time, switch back and forth on your TV. The difference in atmosphere is embarrassing.

As for prospective head coaches, any coach with options will look down at Pitt for playing in an NFL stadium. It reeks of amateur leadership and it shows them that the university does not take the football program seriously.

The solution is a stadium in the 40,000-45,000 range. Can it be built on campus? I have no idea and unless you are professional stadium builder you don't know either. And if Pitt takes a serious look at it and says that it's not feasible then that's fine. But tell us why. Explain it to us. But Pitt doesn't do that. More than that, Pitt acts like fans are crazy for asking. They insult them by continually telling us what a great idea it is to play in Heinz Field, totally ignoring the fact that the number of schools that play on an off campus stadium that's not their own are dwindling by the year.

Tulane just built a stadium in the heart of New Orleans. Minnesota built a 52,525 seat stadium in the middle of Minneapolis. They took out four parking garages to do it. Tulane's is right in the middle of a residential district.

Maybe Pitt can do that and maybe they can't. But explore every possibility instead of continually telling people that there's no need for it. There is a need for it and it can be done. If not on campus then someplace close by that suits Pitt's needs better.

Imagine a perfectly sized stadium open on one end to show the Cathedral of Learning. Imagine outside festivities with people playing music, food trucks, and merchandise booths lining the streets to the stadium. Imagine new traditions. Maybe the players run through the tunnel and all touch a statue of a Panther. Maybe when Pitt wins everybody watches the visible Cathedral of Learning to see the victory lights come on. Those are the kinds of things the players and students should be remembering. What they shouldn't be remembering is being shoehorned into a school bus to go to a half-filled stadium.

The fact that Nordenberg, Pederson, and anybody else responsible for this either can't see that, or don't want to see it, is shameful. Their ridiculous devotion to playing in Heinz Field is depriving people of a great college football atmosphere as well as hurting the program by not attracting the best players and coaches.

5. If he doesn't show signifiant progress next year, fire Chryst: I'm sure I will get a lot of heat for this one, but if you want big time college football you need guys who can hit the ground running. Hiring a neophyte head coach when the program has been struggling so much was a bad idea even if Chryst does end up succeeding. As I proved in a previous article, coaches that turn 6 win teams into 9 win teams do it in an average of two years. Even coaches who take over 4 win teams do it in 3 years. Chryst is now ending his third year and there's still no signs of progress. Save the youth excuse or the "I really feel he's the right man for the job" garbage. This isn't a training program. Either win or get out. Chryst has yet to prove that he's a great recruiter, leader, or game coach. He can't land an elite quarterback despite being a well known quarterback guru, and his coaching hirings have been uninspired. An offensive minded head coach needs an experienced defensive coordinator. Instead Chryst fired the experienced Dave Huxtable because he yelled too much, then hired first time coordinator Matt House who doesn't appear to be good at his job.

You can also save the "Pitt needs stability" reason for not firing Chryst. Pitt fans act like nobody has it harder. All Pitt did was hire some bum coaches. There have been programs who have suffered a lot more who have turned it around in a few years. Two years is an eternity in college sports. If Chryst fails next year, then the only stability he's bringing is mediocrity. Stability is only a good virtue when you're actually successful. A new coach, if he's the right one, can turn Pitt around immediately. It happens all the time. And if Pederson joins Nordenberg and Cochran in being out of Pitt, maybe this time the university will actually get it right. 

Bullet points:

1. Keep Pitt script and keep the brand strong.
2. Fire Pederson and hire the best AD you can find.
3. Commit to excellence in the football program by spending the money that is required to be a big time college football program.
4. If Chryst does not make significant progress next year, hire the best head coach you possibly can by giving him a highly competitive salary for him and his assistants, as well as an increased recruiting budget.
5. Build a stadium.


172 comments:

  1. I stood up and clapped in my office. Bravo.

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  2. Good article. Don't get me started on wrestling. Pitt has the best recruiting base in teh country and is only a little above average. Edinboro is better and PSU has won four titles in a row.

    Agree 100% on being a student going to the game. Not sure if many ppl who comment actually ever have done the bus down to game but it sucks. Getting back sucks even worse which is why you see the students leave early.

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    1. I never once took a bus to the games... Refused to. If I couldn't drive or get a ride, I wasn't going... Even now it's a pain in the ass the deal with the students and buses if you're trying to get from the Gold Lots up to the Northside or over by the casino... It's literally bedlam.

      I was always of the mindset that I could take or leave Heinz... That it was just a place to watch the game...

      But that mindset changes the first time you go see a game in Colombus, or State College, South Bend, and yes, Morgantown.

      A game can be so much more than it is a Pitt...

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    2. I graduated last year. The bus situation sucked. I left games early for two reasons: 1) If I didn't, I would have to wait for another bus to come back to pick me up (especially after better attended games) and, 2) If a bus was available, we would get stuck in traffic on the way home anyway. It's literally a disincentive to even attend a game. The fact that students even attended games was amazing given the busing circumstances.

      You older fans had the luxury of coming and going as you pleased at Pitt Stadium. With Heinz, students had to keep planning ahead as to not get stuck in the next clusterfuck situation Heinz continually presented, whether it be traffic, lines, etc. You're whole day is dictated by the options the school makes available to you. Instead of just attending a football game, the whole thing just turns into a hassle. Add alcohol and a fuck ton of losing to that and you start to see where I'm going with this.

      Also, this kid above said he would drive to games. Props to you sir for still being here today because I would be at the bottom of the Ohio River after driving my car straight into. My point is, having an off-campus stadium creates other potential problems, like DUI, which is asinine on the administration's behalf because students drinking at a football game is expected.

      And for people who love blasting the students for leaving early, you really shouldn't, because at the start of the ESPN telecast, the eye sore is not the student section, it is the rest of the stadium. Your lucky the TV cameras have somewhere to focus in on b/c they sure as hell aren't zooming in any of the other scantily filled sections of the stadium unless you have some 3 year old with his shirt off dancing like I would after 10 shots of Fireball.

      Build the stadium over Pittsburgh Golf Course, that's a sorry excuse for a golf course anyway.

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    3. Amen. Graduated in 2012. Grew up in Michigan. Attended many games at MSU and U of M. My god, how bad it is it to be a football fan at Pitt. 30+ minutes on the bus, if you're lucky, then getting in to the stadium is a hassle for your unreserved seat, then forced to leave early or spend an hour and a half getting back to campus after a 3 hour game. It screams "we don't care, we're doing this on the cheap" Seriously, we're Temple when it comes to our stadium. TEMPLE.

      It really pisses me off when you see all these people bashing students for leaving early. The only part of the frickin' stadium that's actually full is the student section, full of kids who have the worst experience of all, and WE'RE the ones called out on messages boards? The Alums and friends don't even show up in the first place!

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    4. I don't know if it's happened yet or not, but the students do have a voice on campus. If there's enough of them with the same opinion of the sorry, pathetic situation they find themselves in every weekend.... then SPEAK UP... You've got a shiny new Chancellor that is going to leave his mark on the University in more than one way... This could be one of them.

      I will never bash the students for leaving early... It's a crappy product, and they have to go through hell to get there and back.

      @AnonymousOctober 28, 2014 at 8:17 PM

      Spot on.. Cheapest solution to the biggest problem that faced the athletic department... That's all the WHOLE thing was. The buses are just a by product.

      It was cheaper to build the Pete and rent Heinz and the southside than it was to renovate and/or build a new football stadium.... It's that simple...

      Delete
  3. Doke:
    I read all the time. I first posted yesterday about firing the AD. This should be sent to the ad/chancellor/and bot.
    well done on all points

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  4. Wow... now that escalated quickly.
    Regarding the student attendance to games.
    I attended Pitt 77-81. The dorms were empty and the student commuters came in droves on gameday. The student section was filled to the gills. Of course, those were the glory days.
    btw, I'm not sure if I agree with the practice facilities at the South Side. That was a cheap deal for Pitt (rent) instead of building their own facilities on campus.
    If Tulane can build an on-campus stadium (70million) so can Pitt.
    Frankly, I'm not sure if Chryst gets to stay another year. I don't see the upside at all. Don't give me the stability crap either as I don't buy into that.

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    1. http://gifrific.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Boy-That-Escalated-Quickly-Anchorman.gif

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    2. Pitt sold 15K student season tickets this year. They have routinely had 10K students attend. That is 1/4 the total reported attendance and 1/3 of what is really there. And again, the students have it the worst.

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  5. Well, of my choices from the original search after Wanny, one of my choices remains. I think Teryl Austin would bring a fire to the program and definitely light up the recruiting trail. Unfortunately, my other choice in Mark Stoops is doing quite well for himself at Kentucky.

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  6. Pitt's urban setting is a HUGE recruiting asset to a coach who is willing to capitalize on it.

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  7. Bravo!! Spot on!! I have nothing to add. People may not like some things you said, but it's all the truth. If you don't like the truth, then you're just lying to yourselves.

    Again, Bravo!!!

    Don't have a URL, so I picked anonymous.

    Certainly not afraid to have my name attached though.

    David Stevens CAS 88' MBA Pitt 92'

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  8. The one thing that some may pick on. The stadium. Read what he says first!!!!

    If we can't do it, tell us why. Tell us the studies you've done. Don't just smile and say Heinz is great.

    He didn't just say "build one". Tell us how much blood, sweat and money you've put into looking into this. Oh, pretty much none, huh?? That's what I thought.

    Did he really say "it's an event" for the students???

    He's really out of it if he said that, or still believes it.

    David Stevens

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  9. i think if you want to institute change from a grass roots perspective, you should create a website like www.firestevepederson.com and garner thousands of signatures and deliver it to the new chancellor. he will definitely notice this and it has worked in other major institutions, it is happening to Michigan's AD currently. Thoughts??

    DT'04

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    Replies
    1. #FirePederson

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    2. Its not just the stadium that would need built, its parking facilities, and its mass transit, otherwise how are you going to entice the crowds to come to the game? You don't want to trade one set of headaches for another. People reminisce about the glory days at Pitt Stadium but nobody is talking about the parking headaches, the killer walk up cardiac hill, and the traffic that followed.

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    3. #FireCyanideStevePederson so everyone knows who you're talking about.

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  10. I pretty much agree with the whole thing. I guess it's kind of up to us alums/fans to be heard and try and institute change. Sadly, we pretty much know that nothing has a chance to change til Pederson is gone and I don't see that happening in the near future.

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  11. Chris, you pretty much summed it up for the entire Pitt fan base. I guess until we actually start voicing our opinion, nothing will get done.

    Look forward to hearing what yourself and others have to comment on this post. It's pretty deflating to know that only 12 schools are bringing in more money than Pitt right now. The fact that we can't even make a BCS bowl every few years is embarrassing.

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  12. Thank you...excellent insight on what sadly has been relegated to a provincial matter. There is no future for Chryst. Pull the trigger and move on.

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  13. Chris

    A much less negative post than I had expected. Thanks for presenting your thoughts so well and for balancing our positives with the "to do" list.

    I have never fully understood why people dislike SP so much. Now I am starting to get it. I just thought that he looks like a doofus with that stupid smile all the time.

    pmdH2P

    p.s. What is the story with DaVon Hamilton's visit to Kentucky?

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  14. What's the truth re the script? If Pederson didn't want it and Nordenberg supported him on the decision, with the script reappearing does it mean there are issues with the chancelor supporting Pederson?

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  15. Your #1 bullet point for turning this program around is cursive writing on the helmet......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't even mention the script. You did. I mentioned the brand, which happens to be a very important part of business.

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    2. Chris - Thanks for doing a very good, detailed view of what's right/wrong and how things must change. The first bullet point does mention the script and the brand. Do you think they can (or should) be separated? I like the idea of being known as Pitt (sort of like Ole Miss) but I don't care if it's written in block letters or script. In fact with all the uniform variations and color schemes that most schools have, I would use them both.

      Overall, great job and thanks for caring enough to write this!

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    3. I guess I did mention script. That's a mistake. I intended to write to keep the Pitt name.

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  16. Are there other programs that are in or have been in a similar state and successfully been turned around? Or is being a major program with lots of built-in advantages that just doesn't try or care enough something that is unique to Pitt?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, many others: Kansas State, Stanford, Oregon, and Oregon State -- people forget that they were all four wretched not that long ago. Baylor and Oklahoma State. UCLA. Mississippi State. Northwestern (altho they've backslid a little lately). And I'm sure I'm forgetting some.

      Delete
    2. Kentucky, Vandy when Franklin was there, Ole Miss, Miss State, ASU, UCLA
      Just to name a few that were turned around with hiring a good coach and admin supporting the program.
      Look at Vandy academics an how they NOW see the importance of football to the university. Vandy was always considered a basketball or baseball school.

      Delete
    3. Look, there are some P5 schools in Pitt's situation, but its a minority and those schools are taking real steps to change it. Minnesota was mentioned in the post. That's one the closest examples, large, urban public school, shared a stadium with a pro-team. And there are also schools who have big time money but are awful at football - Indiana and Wake Forest for example. But there is no school with big time money, with a football tradition, with our size, that's this bad consistently over 30 years.

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  17. Agree with your overall assessment on Coach Wannstedt, and did want to point out that in comparing his record with Coach Chryst's, Wannstedt did not have solid seasons until years 4 and 5; in his third season, his record was 5-7 (Chryst's current 4-4), so we should see first how the rest of the season plays out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True, but Wannstedt was recruiting a heck of a lot better than Chryst.
      Do you seriously think next season will be any different with the players on the current roster??

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    2. With the offense being a year older and more experienced, I think they will be better next year. Not sure I can say the same for the defense especially if House is still there. Wannstedt recruited a lot of talent but also had a lot of off field issues. Overall I think Chryst is getting guys who might not have as much talent but have less baggage. There will always be an exception or two (see former QB) but with Chryst that behavior is the exception, not the rule.

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    3. Anony 7:07.
      Typical Chryst backer. The talent Chryst is recruiting won't win in the ACC. Sounds like you are ok with 6-6 and mediocrity.

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    4. No doubt Chryst won't win the ACC with this talent, (I'm not 7:07 btw) but there is enough talent to win the Coastal. And we're not even close to doing it. We're under performing our recruiting, which I didn't even think could happen. That's how bad Chryst is.

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  18. Everything listed is something that should be done, no dobut. I just wonder what incentive the administration has to do what it takes to compete. Yes they have the money but even if Pitt football succeeds will they ever see a return on their investment?

    I was class of '07, certainly not the glory years but not god awful either as I got to see Larry's Heisman run and a BCS bowl in my first two years. Yet as %!#@ was hitting the fan on Saturday I only knew two people as outraged as I was and one was my Dad, this isn't the case during bball season.

    When Dan Mullen took over at MSU he implored his fan base that it starts with them. If Pitt fans aren't going to demand a quality product, why should the administration supply it? It's easy to just go the cheap route and watch the ACC money come flowing in, we're no different than a small market pro team with greedy ownership.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Fantastic article Chris - you should be the AD - scratch that - Chancellor :)

    Agreed with everything - unfortunately on the bullet pints (which I agree) - we'll probably only get #'s 1 and 2.

    3 and 5, ain't happening and 4, I just wish it was sooner than the end of next year.

    Zatiti's getting old.

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  20. Great piece Chris. You hit just about all the points of a football program that stands for mediocrity or worse over the last 30 years. Besides Pitt's huge endowment, we are now getting over $20 million a year from the ACC contract. THERE IS NO EXCUSE TO GO 'ON THE CHEAP' NOW. Not that there was one in the past. Chancellor Gallagher needs to hire a new competent AD, hopefully with lots of football connections, and then hire a competent exciting, energetic football coach. No need to fire Chryst, just not renew his contract, as it will take a while to place the new AD, etc.

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  21. Hi Chris, your best work since I've been following your blog, and maybe ever. Speaking of, do you know if anyone with "stroke" in the administration or within the athletic department reads your blog?

    I agree with everything you said except the stadium. And I even agree with your sentiment on that, but the cost is astronomical (and yes I am an engineer in the construction business...): Due respect, your $70M number is laughably low, by at least an order of magnitude.

    I ran some numbers a few years ago while debating with those guys who run the Panther Hollow Stadium website. For a (doubtless) union job, I think you're looking at somewhere around $1B, maybe up to $1.4B. It's a great idea, I just can't get my brain around how you justify spending that kind of coin just for atmosphere, as desirable as that may be...

    For comparison, as we speak Colorado State is considering whether to build an on-campus stadium that's even smaller. And their price tag is in north of $200M for a non-union job (Colorado is a right-to-work state) and they already own cleared land -- Pitt doesn't -- CSU would basically be building literally in the middle of a cornfield.

    The problem isn't even the stadium alone, it's also the cost of the infrastructure needed since there's no parking -- and won't be: Either a light-rail link or a 4-lane (minimum) extension off the Parkway West. If Harrisburg will agree to foot that bill, that'll be major. Good luck with that.

    I'd love LOVE to see Pitt Stadium Part Deux for all the reasons you cited. I just don't think it's worth a billion-plus.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't say anything about it costing 70 million dollars. It would a few hundred. But it wouldn't cost a billion.

      Delete
    2. If they have to buy up & raze 100s of homes, relocate all the major utilities, then build a 4-lane highway or (better yet) a light-rail spur? Then due respect, yes you're looking at a $billion. Sorry but you just are...

      What did the much MUCH smaller Pete cost to build? And they already had a (relatively) cleared site to work on, plus the state kicked in a bunch of money.

      Now if "someone" donates & clears the land and if PennDOT pays for the necessary infrastructure, then maybe not. Just the stadium structure alone, you're looking at north of $300M (perhaps north of $400M for a union job in an urban site).

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    3. Do you know how I know that it wouldn't cost as much as you say? Because if it did Pitt would not hesitate to tell us how impossible it is. But they never do that.

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    4. The cowboy and niner stadiums cost 1 billion. Where are you getting your numbers for a pitt stadium. Way, way off.

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    5. Tulane cost $70million. Just opened this year.

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    6. It did cost Tulane 70 million and I mentioned that on Twitter last week. Pitt's would cost a lot more but the good news is, they only need a stadium and not practice facilities.

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    7. OP you're completely wrong a few points. One, the panther hollow project says $700M because they have to move a rail line, build light rail, and put it in the worst place on campus. It's cheaper to buy Oakland row houses than you realize. Two, notice that Dokish says it doesn't need to be on campus. There are many places on the Mon and in the South Side - past the current practice facilities that are brownfield sites that will be very cheap to develop.

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    8. Put it in Schenley Park.
      Park on campus and walk or shuttle there.
      It doesn't have to have a large footprint if only 45k seating.

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    9. Schenley Park already has a track oval next to tennis courts.
      Just put it there.
      Students can walk there. Long walk.
      Put on/off ramps to Parkway East Rte. 376 for Greenfield Bridge.
      Done!

      Delete
    10. Let's assume that the OP is wrong & that it would only cost $300 million to build a new stadium. That's still $300 million that would be far better spent elsewhere.

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  22. I agree with some of your points but will not agree on the stadium issue until we start winning with some regularity. I think this can be done without the stadium which you chose as your last point. The stadium cannot fit on the existing campus but the existing campus needs to expand anyway so when it comes time for it the Pitt community needs to decide which way to go and then build the stadium in that direction. We also need to put the parking in place at the same time and have it available for commuters and night students to use.

    As for no other programs having national relevance, I must put in a plug for our volleyball team. In his second year our new coach has our team receiving votes for a top twenty five ranking in the last several weeks. In a year or two we should have an elite program.

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    Replies
    1. I still don't understand why no one thinks the Hill immediately above the the Peterson out door fields is an option. It's flat up their, the land is cheap, and it would be easy to tie it in to a middle Hill development project.

      Delete
    2. @AnonymousOctober 28, 2014 at 9:21 PM

      That almost becomes a civic issue. Dealing with and/or evicting section 8 tenants after their properties have been purchased by the University..

      There were enough people that bitched and moaned about a soccer field and baseball field going in next to Oak Hill... Imagine if they decided to put a football stadium there... Although I'd be in favor of it... I think there are probably better sites. But what the heck, put it wherever you want for all I care.

      Delete
  23. What has not been mention is that before the last Chancellor retired he gave Smiley a contract extension I believe for five years. So unless Pitt is willing to buy out Smiley and I doubt it he is going nowhere.

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    Replies
    1. SP is under contract until 2017-18, which is three years from now. His buy out is $1.8M tops, it's probably lower than that if its lump sum, but without seeing the contract it's impossible to say. Pitt was making $3M per year from the Big East, we made $17M last year and that will go up each year. Are we really gonna let 600K hold us back?

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    2. I'm not going to say for sure that I know because I don't, but I can't imagine that Pederson has a very big buyout.

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  24. Chris, this is an excellent article; very well thought out and written. is there anyway you can print this out and please mail it to the new chancellor at pitt? being a pitt fan can give you the biggest case of blue balls, cause you hear all these great ideas, but nothing ever becomes of it. it is words and ideas that while great go no where. seems like pitt is full of incompetence and strides to its own drummer regardless of outside forces. would love to have someone stand up at a pressor and have the cajones to ask chryst real questions and to not stop until he answers and is accountable for the disasters that occur during his coaching on gamedays.

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  25. Has anyone been to Madison? That stadium is in the city also so this no room crap and no parking isn't that big of a deal. They have a lot bigger stadium than Pitt needs too.

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  26. If PittofDreams added a point 6 to Chris' list, it would be to bench Voytik and start Anderson. LOL

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    Replies
    1. Yeah. POD doesn't know jack about QB's although he thinks he does.

      Delete

    2. My record for the past TWO YEARS speaks for itself.

      How about you Anonymous 1 & 2? Or is that Anonymi?

      PitttofDreams

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    3. POD,

      Explain to the masses what record over the last 2 years you're talking about.

      Delete
  27. Any true Pitt fan should stand up and cheer for this article. My thoughts for years but not articulated as well. The commitment needs to come from the chancellor. Does he have the desire to get the process started? Can he find his way through the politics to get the process started? The process starts with the removal of sp and thus the healing begins. Great things to think of what could be....
    Gary from cleveland

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  28. Great article. Two thoughts:

    1. Firing Wannstedt was a mistake. Pitt cost themselves 20-plus wins with how poor the 2011 and 2012 schedules were set up. Wins in those two seasons (likely no BCS bids either, but I like wins), Penn State's scandal and the move to the ACC would have boosted recruiting. Firing Wannstedt was a huge mistake despite his warts.

    2. Pitt will never spend on football. It's the top reason why I'm losing my passion for the team. If this season spirals out of control, Chryst shouldn't get another season. If Pitt wants to pay, bring Jim Tressel out of where he is and let him start in 2015 with Boyd and Connor for one season.

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    Replies
    1. I agree. Im beginning to not care... and that is worse than being mad.

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  29. Tressel - never happen. They are very much risk adverse at Pitt these days and I doubt the new chancellor will step out on that limb.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just because Nordy and SP and Cochran were risk averse, doesn't mean that Gallagher will be. Granted he still answers to the Trustees... But still. Things will be changing at Pitt. There are big times ahead. Always exciting when new leadership is introduced....

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    2. It's the people above Gallagher that are risk averse. In fact, it's the people above Gallagher that are the true culprits in Pitt's predicament. They have been doing this to the football program for almost 100 years (see: Sutherland, Jock).

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    3. The only "people" above Gallagher is the BOT. They do not want any controversy or indescretions. Clean....Clean....Clean

      Delete
  30. Outstanding article. We disagree on Wannstedt but this is a great breakdown on the high level issues plaguing Pitt. After talking to my dad (another life long Pitt fan) I just dont think theres much hope for Pitt as long as Pederson is there. Its one terrible decision after another. He ruined Nebraska and they've never really been on that same level since, but at least they ran him out of town quickly. I just wonder what we can do as fans to try to force him out.

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  31. Chris that was well done and we all know what should be done but in reality they had a program in a let it go

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  32. Mike Ditka, Chris Doleman, Tony Dorsett, Russ Grimm, Ricky Jackson, Dan Marino, Curtis Martin, Joe Schmidt, Craig Heyward, Larry Fitzgerald, Mark May, Bill Fralic, Hugh Green, Darrell Revis, Lesean McCoy, Aaron Donald, Marshall Goldberg, Antonio Bryant, Edgar Jones, Jabaal Sheard, Jimbo Covert, Ruben Brown, Tony Siragusa, Jeff Christy, Andy Lee, Bill Mcpeak, Bill Maas, Carlton Williamson,Jonathan Baldwin, Jeff Otah, Tom RIcketts, Sean Gilbert, Rashard Jennings, Henry Hynoski, Mike McGylnn..............................and the list goes on.........How can any school with that sort of alumni not give a crap about their football program. It is time to restore Pitt to Glory!!

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  33. Chris, I hate to be disrespectful but you really must not understand endowments and fundraising.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ok then tell me where I'm wrong.

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    2. Well, we're waiting...

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    3. Tick tock....tick tock...probably some lapdog from Cyanide Steve's office.

      Unless the donor requests that the donations be earmarked to a specific area like scholarships, etc., it's the Universities money to use as it wishes. How about a fundraiser for a new stadium?

      Delete
    4. Well I'm not the same person, but I think he is saying that most of that money belongs to research. Plus I don't think it's legal to just raid it for a stadium or something like that.

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  34. The three billion dollar endowment argument is misleading. (I know you addressed some of this in your edit. Still...) So much of that money comes from donors earmarked for other projects and cannot be spent on athletics. As I understand it, very little money from the endowment or it's payouts can be spent on football, and many of the large donors and academic types care nothing for the athletic programs, so while Pitt may have tons of money, Pitt football must live on what it makes (granted, a lot more since the ACC switch) as well as share it with the rest of the athletic program.

    Also, you claim Wanny was fired because Pederson wanted his guy in there. Maybe that's the case, but I get the feelling that he was let go because of the off-the-field garbage with the players. When that SI article came out, the decision was made that he either won the conference or would be let go. He didn't win the conference, he was fired.

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    Replies
    1. I think I explained it very well. Any school that has a 3 billion endowment is a school that has people with big pockets that are donating. And if those people aren't donating to Pitt football then it's because Pitt is failing at getting it from them. But make no mistake about it, Pitt has donors with a lot more money than most schools. Pitt just has to be competent enough to get it from them. These people coughed up the money to keep Dixon. The reason they aren't doing it for football is obvious to me. They no doubt feel that it's wasted money because Pitt doesn't know how to use it.

      Delete
    2. Tell me Anony 10:40 isn't from Pitt admin... hmm
      Told you Pitt athletice admin are on the blogs.

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    3. Nope not in the admin. What did I say that would give you any indication I support anything smiley does? In fact I gave no opinion whatsoever that was related to the effectiveness of the admins. I merely stated it is misleading to cite the endowment as proof that there are donors willing to help out the football program. It's been written and reported many times over the years that many of the big time donors to the school have no interest in athletics and don't feel the need to donate to the AD. This isn't to say Pedersen hasn't done a terrible job soliciting donations. He has. The guy is a cancer that needs to be cut out. His track record is terrible. His shortcomings are so well documented that there is no need to reach for reasons to can him.

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  35. Btw, there are sports endowments included in the general endowment. They are not nearly as much and at Pitt they are even less. The administration has fine a terrible job of getting money for athletics.

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  36. GENIUS!!!! PURE GENIUS!!!!!

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  37. This no doubt is pie in the sky, but always thought it would be cool to have a stadium right behind the Cathedral. Looking at Google maps, the Schenley are looks to make the most sense, though.

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    Replies
    1. We can even begin to imagine the political backlash that would occur if Pitt even thought about building a stadium there.

      Delete
  38. Alot I agreed with, one thing I did not was the stadium. Though, I would like to see one built for all the reasons Chris has mentioned, the reality of it happening is 0% chance. They have saved and are making more money with the agreement at Heinz field to consider moving, throw in the parking, no where to built it, the cost and no. The Rooneys have made the stadium work and they have had fans before when they have won. I just do not see a way it happens and that does hurt Pitt.
    I think what Pitt needs to do is recruit better. Why Paul has not been able to land a big-time QB with his background is disheartening. I think Paul is a good guy and a good coach, but football in college is a mean game with recruiting and not sure if Paul can hang with those Grahams of the world with their sneaky ways. I do want to see Paul make it though. Peterson who I have actually liked because I have thought that he has made more good choices than bad, has made major blunders with the football program and if as many people hate him as Chris says and it might be time for a change and a new direction. I am up for anybody who has good ideas to bring the football program back to winning and filling the stands , but building a stadium is a solution that is not even for debate with Pitt brass.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Great work.

    Stadium:
    Even in Oakland there are many places to consider. No one suggests it but I would pull down Bouquet Gardens, Posvar and David Lawrence. DLH and Posvar are horrible wastes of space and their facilities can be relocated. Bouquet Gardens are nice but those students can be housed elsewhere. SHAZAM! You have the space to build a stadium right where there used to be a stadium! Next? Towers A, B, C. Pull them down. Build a structure that utilizes the whole footprint. Incorporate classrooms and offices lost in previously demoed buildings not the lower levels. Build square or rectangular rooms above. Upperclassmen homeless after Bouquet's removal can occupy suites in the top floors with a view of the cathedral and into new Pitt stadium.

    To anyone complaining about traffic: then don't go. If we have a 40,000k stadium the diehards will come. If the wins start it will be impossible to get a ticket. Sure light rail and parking is great and traffic sucks. You probably sit in traffic with less payoff everyday. I've been in traffic leaving Notre dame stadium which is surrounded by nothing. That stadium is full every Saturday. The stadium in or close to central Oakland needs to happen.

    Great post Chris.
    - Clark CBA '04

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  40. Agree, agree, agree.

    This is where you are REALLY GOOD. Your BARE BONES analysis should make some waves.

    My suggestion is don't stop. Keep POUNDING away and you'll find yourself in front of the curve.

    PittofDreams

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  41. Chris, long time reader, first time commenter; this the best article on Pitt football I have ever read. Thank you so much for writing it!

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  42. Pitt football may benefit from its own stadium, but the last thing Pittsburgh needs is a fourth stadium funded by tax-payers. Fix the roads, put more money towards early education, do anything but no more money to sport, please.

    And, much as I love our city to death, Paris, New York, and London are world class cities; Pittsburgh is a wonderful but small, well kept secret.

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  43. My first Pitt game was in the mid seventies against Navy. I was maybe 10 years old and came with a group of Cub Scouts. I don't remember much about the game other than the crowd and the Navy Cadets that were sitting near us. The atmosphere was incredible.

    A few years later I started to really get into football. It was the height of Pittsburgh's sports dominance. The Steelers were incredible (my dad had season tickets and took me to at least a game each year), the Bucs were excellent, and Pitt was among the nation's elite college football programs. I was hooked...unfortunately hooked, as far as Pitt athletics is concerned.

    Little did I know that I cared far more about Pitt athletics than the University itself did. Little did I know that those few years were an aberration. Little did I know that I would be torturing myself for years to come as the University made one bad decision after another.

    Call me naive; but, when they fired Wanny I was encouraged. I took it as a sign of better decisions yet to come. After all, why fire a guy who can give you a solid eight wins per year and a bowl game most seasons if you weren't ready to take football seriously? Why fire a guy that can bring you a mediocre program if you didn't want or expect more than that? Why go through that headache if you didn't truly want to win? At this point, we all know why. It has become the Pitt way.

    All these years later I almost wish that I hadn't gone to that game against Navy. Without that game, maybe my hopes wouldn't have gotten up every time it looked like the football program might turn a corner. Maybe I wouldn't have cared as much every time the basketball team came close...only to disappoint yet again.

    For some reason, I do still care. And that's why I loved every bit of this column. Spot on, Chris.

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  44. Chris, Great article. One of the challenges is that University as a whole is doing great. Student applications are at an all-time high. The quality of students is better than ever. And as you mentioned, the endowment is robust.

    So all this proves to the executive level (i.e. Chancellor and the Board of Trustees) that there is no correlation between success on the field and fans in the stadium to other key metrics of a successful university.

    So unfortunately, unless those other key metrics change, which no one would want, the executives do not have compelling reason to change course and invest in the football program.

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  45. Excellent article Chris. Hopefully someone from Pitt is listening.

    I've been a Pitt fan since the glory days of Majors/Sherrill, and I'm now convinced that Pitt happened to catch lightning in a bottle for a short while, and we most likely will never see those days again.

    A university that isn't willing to commit financial resources to its football program just isn't going to be successful. Pitt made a huge mistake in not paying Sherrill more, and that mistake has haunted Pitt. Any successful organization/business realizes that paying to attract and keep good people is a necessity. The old adage, "You've got to spend money to make money" is very true.

    The AD does need to go. He seems to be out of touch with what the fanbase wants. There is a disconnect between him and the fans, and he just doesn't get it, or should I say he just doesn't get Pitt.

    His football hires have been bad, and the coaches who do come seem to hate working for him. Changing Pitt to Pittsburgh was very stupid, as was getting rid of the script. While he may have seen the script as a reminder of the 90s, to many Pitt fans it symbolized the glory days of the 70s and early 80s.

    Nordenberg gave him an extension before retiring, probably because he realized once he retired, people would be gunning for Pederson. They are, and rightly so.

    There should be an on-campus stadium. There is no atmosphere at Heinz Field. Pitt needs a smaller venue where the fan experience would be more electric, instead of the tens of thousands of empty seats at Heinz.

    Coach Chryst still needs to prove he's capable of being a head coach. I believe he's more suited to being a coordinator, as the program is no better after three years.

    If he's let go, hopefully Pitt will hire someone with a proven track record as a head coach and recruiter. Of course, that would take money, and we know how that song goes.

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  46. Okay, I'll play along. First to "Anonymous" above: The construction costs for AT&T Stadium and Levi's Stadium were $1.4B and $1.2B, respectively, not $700M (so you're low by half right out of the chutes). Now, AT&T is palatial and Pitt Stadium Part Deux needn't be, plus both are MUCH larger.

    However, they had wide open spaces in Arlington to construct, which is the big problem: Oakland (PA) doesn't (well, okay, maybe Schenley Park, but y'all talk as if it's a given that the city will just let Pitt have it gratis. That's a big if.)

    And crowded as the Bay Area admittedly is, even Santa Clara is a country pasture compared to Oakland PA. No comparison.

    Plus I'll bet my lunch money that AT&T wasn't a union job which I predict would add 50% to the construction cost.

    To another "Anonymous" comment: "Put on/off ramps to Parkway East Rte. 376 for Greenfield Bridge. Done!" Right, and wave a magic wand and sprinkle pixie dust, and we can turn mushrooms into pots of gold at the end of rainbows. Point being, there's a COST to build those ramps, they don't just appear out of thin air for free. And they aren't cheap. I don't know the terrain in that area well enough to know what properties would need to be acquired & buildings demolished to guesstimate an exact figure, but I can tell you that most major construction projects are in the multi tens of million$. This wouldn't be cheaper.

    What's a row house in Oakland cost? Let's add up how many we need, add how much it would cost to knock them down, abandon and/or relocate the utilities, and remove the streets. And you better have eminent domain to seize them -- does Pitt? Doubtful... -- or else the cost to buy them will double, and buying the last 50 or so will cost as much as mansions in Fox Chapel.

    Finally, again I say, the stadium structure itself -- just the steel & concrete, no frills -- would be $300M easy. I don't know what Tulane built, but you don't get much in stadium construction these days for "only" $70M. Did you watch the World Series? The Royals spend nearly $300M in KANSAS CITY to upgrade Kauffman Stadium. Upgrade it, not build it. And KC is cheap for construction, far cheaper than urban union-heavy Pittsburgh.

    Look, I'm not saying Pitt Stadium Part Deux cannot be built, it can be, absolutely for sure. But in my (licensed in PA) professional opinion, the cost of construction, all in, will easily exceed $1B.

    Let me ask you a question, Chris: What's your squeal point? At what price point does the new stadium cost too much for atmosphere? I agree with your sentiment, I'd LOVE to have Pitt Stadium Part Deux. But at $1B, I can live with Heinz Field until we get your other issues taken care of first.

    One man's opinion. And with all due respect to you & your readers, a man who does this stuff for a living, every day.


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    1. Like I said before, I'm not an expert on whether or not it can happen. All I said was that if it can't happen then explain to Pitt fans why it can't happen instead of treating them like annoying gnats that you just swat away. Instead they act like Heinz Field is the perfect place as if the fans are idiots. The best option and the perfect option aren't the same thing.

      Delete
    2. What is your profession? Unless it's for HOK I'm a little skeptical. Land where Levi's was built is more than oakland. San Fran has one of highest in country and santa clara has 120k residents, oakland has 25k. Pittsburgh land is really cheap for a major city.

      Show me any links or facts to support 1B.

      Delete
    3. First of all, I'm a huge fan of you & this blog, I go thru DTs when you don't post fresh meat for a few days (kidding, sorta...). So I don't want to come across as arguing with you or trying to punch holes in your excellent piece of work. With that background:

      CAN be built? Absolutely it can, as long as you can find a way to pay for it. But trying to be realistic, if Pitt struggles to pay for its coaches -- points you made very well -- then how can we realistically expect them to pony up $1B (or $700M or whatever it ends up to be) for a project they think they don't need? Rhetorical.

      Just for giggles, let's split the difference between $70M (which I realize wasn't your number) and my $1B. Let's say it costs $600M (which my gut says is LOW low, but humor me) to build a 45,000 seat stadium, and the stadium is good for, what, 30 years before it degrades into a new dump. For six home games a year, with 0% cost of money (in other words, assuming you could simply borrow $600M at zero interest, laughale but humor me...), just the debt service adds $75 to each home game ticket.

      Now let's assume that students aren't asked to bear that burden, so that, what, 15,000 seats are reserved for students and exempted from the "personal license fees" or whatever you call them. Now you're over $100 ADDER to the CURRENT cost of a game. Assuming 0% interest.

      Due respect, it's simply not feasible under the current restraints. Now if you can get the city to donate Schenley Park to Pitt for a dollar, and if some booster kicks in $2-300M or whatever, and if PennDOT pays for the arteries or ramps or whatever between Parkway West, then you're getting warmer. If and if and if....

      I live out of state and get to a home game once a year most years. And I agree that Heinz Field lacks atmosphere (but from a selfish viewpoint, it's sure easier to get to & park than Pitt Stadium Part Deux would be). But if tickets jump from $30 to $130 (more like $150 with interest on the debt service), what's that do to your already struggling attendance? Sobering....

      Point being, let's solve the problems we can tackle first, and put this one on the back burner.

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    4. Oh and one more point: Even with an PSL adder of “only” $100 per seat per game, you’d need to sell out every non-student seat for 30 years for EVERY game -- even for games against Delaware and Akron and Maine -- or else you wouldn’t be able to service your debt, even at 0% interest. So if you assume a more realistic 75% average attendance -- which could be high with the new PSLs -- your adder jumps to $133. And with interest added in, closer to $200 per game per seat. Added to the current prices. Sobering….

      Delete
    5. I suggest you do mapquest satellite and check out the "track oval" at Schenley and proximity to Greenfield Bridge.
      You can build a 45,000 seat stadium there for under 100million. Tulane did a 30,000 seat stadium for $70-75million (depending upon the source).
      Then the question would be cost for on/off ramps to Greenfield.

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    6. You didn't answer anons 12:01 question, what is your qualification and do you have any links to support your numbers?

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    7. So now you are a finance expert?! Clueless.

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    8. Actually he did answer the question in his first post on the subject. He's an engineer in the construction business.

      Looking locally at recent stadiums PNC Park cost $216 million in 2001 and Citizens Bank Park was $458 million in 2004. Heinz and The Link both cost more than the baseball stadiums.

      Tulane's new stadium (which looks like a glorified HS stadium with bleacher seating in 2/3) was built on a basically empty track of land (some athletic fields) and amidst the infrastructure of old Tulane Stadium.

      If you think you're building a stadium for under $400 million in Oakland you're crazy. If you think Pitt is building a new stadium and not upping prices or adding PSL's to get some return on the investment, you are more crazy.

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    9. Response to "Anonymous" @ 2PM: First of all, I didn't say it cost Tulane only $70M to build, someone else did. And someone else also confirmed by contentions (that you don't get much of a stadium these days for only $70M) that Tulane built a glorified high school stadium -- that makes sense. That's also the corollary to my $300M for the stadium itself.

      Here's the major difference: Tulane evidently build on land they already had: old Tulane Stadium. That's not an option for us, we build the basketball arena on Old Pitt Stadium.

      The difference between my $3-400M just for the stadium and $1B all in is the cost to buy and raze half of south Oakland on the open market (presuming Pitt doesn't have eminent domain) plus the cost to build a highway or a light-rail spur (presuming PennDOT won't).

      So now it's your turn: Tell me how much it will cost the university to buy Schenley Park from the city for your project site. I doubt it's zero. But if it is, then yes I'll come way down from my $1B total all-in number.

      But for fun, let's say it's zero for the land. You're still looking at $3-400M if you can get free land from the city and free ramps from PennDOT. Let's say $300M.

      Even that $300M adds AT LEAST $100 average to every non-student's ticket for every game for the next 30 years, and that's at ridiculous 0% bonds (no such thing...). Do the math, show me where I'm wrong.

      Will you pay $600 to take your wife and two kids to a Pitt game? Or $3,600 for the season? Plus parking? Maybe you would, but they're having trouble filling the stadium now when you can get tickets for under $10.

      Oh and one more thing, that $300M is just to construct it, not to maintain it. Of course the thing will need to be maintained, given a face lift every 10 years or so. Those costs are not included, and push the $150 per ticket per game even higher.

      Sobering. That's a lot to pay for atmosphere. I can only speak for me, but Heinz Field doesn't look so bad now that I know how much it would cost to attend games at Pitt Stadium Part Deux....

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    10. The Pete cost $70million and only holds 12,000.
      I don't the argument of ticket prices going thru the roof.
      Tulane 30,000 seat stadium cost $70million. So what it has bench style seating. 45,000 seat stadium for $100million seems about right assuming you build it in Schenley park at no land cost.
      You can build the stadium in such a way to attract an MLS team... yep, soccer.

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    11. Sorry my Anonymous friend: Construction cost of the Pete was $112M (= $158M in 2014 dollars), and broke ground nearly 15 years ago.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petersen_Events_Center

      Plus if memory serves, didn't the state GSA pay a large part of that? If the state ponies up again, then you convinced me! Until then...

      And as you correctly pointed out, the Pete's less than a third the capacity of Pitt Stadium Part Deux. But it has a roof which Pitt Stadium won't. Sorry, to build something half-decent you're looking at $350M no matter how you slice it, once you have a site. Which we don't.

      Oh sure, you can have people sit on wood bleachers like some high school team, and have tickets "only" triple in price rather than go up by an order of magnitude. Good luck selling that. Think the Pitt AD and athletic department have an image problem now? Just wait until the big-dollar boosters start going home with wood splinters in their butt cheeks.

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    12. One more thing: Please cite any legitimate source that suggests that Pitt can get permission to build in Schenley Park at no land cost. Seriously, because the majority of my $1B estimate is the cost to acquire the land, raze it and render it ready to build on, and provide its modern access.

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    13. I know.
      That is why I said the cheapest option is Schenley Park.
      OBVIOUSLY (Tomlinism) Pitt will have to give something back in return.
      If you want to build a Tulane like stadium, $100million for 45,000 seats.
      If you want to build lots of suites, etc... of course it will be closer to $200million.

      Delete
  47. Here's my question... The Steelers' lease runs through 2031.. What happens when they decide they want to build a massive complex with a new stadium in Washington County... seems to be working alright for the Pats at Patriot Place.

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    1. I don't know about you but I'll be 80 and wont care and probably wont know

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    2. Decisions like that don't get made last second... If the Steelers are going to do that, I'd imagine talks would begin in the next 7-10 years.. There's fund raising (taxes), politicking, and ultimately 2-3 years of construction.

      The point is... Pitt is already tied to the hip of the Steelers, and their hand could get forced anyway. If the Steelers leave the north side, Heinz field will be blown up. It was a dump when it opened, it's dump today, and it will only get worse over the next 17 years.

      If it happens, it will fall under Gallagher's tenure.

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    3. Good point. I could see cranberry or southpointe having a steeler complex. Especially with all the development that is taking place between pnc and heinz. They could level heinz and develop it more. That would be way to far off campus. What does Pitt do then?

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    4. Although I'd bet they'd try, I don't think Pitt could pay the Sports Exhibition Authority enough for them to not level Heinz...

      I don't know man, that would be a tough situation to be in.

      Given the Rooney family roots on the north side, and their phenomenal relationship with the university... it would take something extraordinary for them to pick up and head to the 'burbs and screw Pitt like that...

      I don't think it's likely.. I'm just saying it could happen... Cranberry gave Westinghouse 15 years of state, local, and county tax exemption to build along 228... What would Washington offer the Steelers...?

      Again, I don't think it's likely... But at some point, there at least needs to be a conversation about the possibility.

      Delete
  48. Recruiting is his weakest point. There's no depth which means there's no competition at any positions which is why no one can be benched because the players behind the starters are just not fbs power 5 players. You get what you pay for and this is our result.

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  49. Chris excellent job...well researched...well done...let the nay sayers think their negative cant do thoughts...anything is possible.

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  50. Highly comprehensive assessment. It is to be applauded. However, I think it's also a little naïve, because it's missing at least one salient point for PITT to go back to being a major football program--start cheating like your school plays in the SEC, dots the 'i' in Ohio, or names its program after a world famous prophylactic. Embolden the school's boosters, without formally, officially interacting with them. Give the booster's the "wink-and-nod" to influence recruits, current players, salaries, and local infrastructure. Meanwhile, the school can sit in the distance and claim ignorance when a player drives around in an SUV he can't possibly afford and his old man/lady gets a new house and job. Besides, even if the NCAA sniffs something--why fear the wrath ? They can't even punish a school protecting a pedophile properly.

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    1. That is what Majors/Sherrill and boosters of the 70's did.
      Tony Dorsett had summer jobs lounging at the pool (poolboy) for the booster brothers (Docs) from Center Township. How do you think they landed Dorsett!

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  51. One of the "Anonymous brothers" above -- I forget which one, after awhile they all look alike (haha) -- wanted links, so here’s one that’s very close to me (‘nuf said…). As I said Colorado State is right now, as we speak, trying -- and failing -- to raise funds to build an on-campus stadium. Here’s a link to the UNIVERSITY’s own campaign:

    http://www.colostate.edu/stadium/option4.aspx

    First of all, their costs are too low, and everybody knows it. But for the sake of argument, let’s say they’re right, $225M just for construction. And as I’ve said before, that’s to build in a glorified cornfield that CSU already owns using non-union contractors in a right-to-work state. And CSU doesn't need any highway off-ramps or arteries, or a light-rail link. It's a state land-grant university, with plenty of room to work.

    To build this same project using union contractors? With no other changes, let’s say it adds 50%, bumps the construction costs to right around $350M. For a stadium that seats 35-40,000 (nice, but smaller than Pitt Stadium Part Deux). There are artists drawings, it would be nice, I guess, but certainly not palatial by any means. Like I said $70M -- or $350M in our case -- doesn’t buy you palatial these days when it comes to stadiums.

    And making matters worse, in our scenario, that $350M doesn’t give us a site in Oakland on which to work, or the highway infrastructure to get there or to park once you get there. Or the cost of funds.

    Our cost would be well north of $350M. Would it reach $1B? Maybe, depends on how much it costs to buy and raze south Oakland and build the highway ramps and arteries and/or light-rail links and stations. Until they're done, sure as hell a lot closer to $1B to $70M.

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    1. Do you work for HOK or not?

      You send a link for proof but then say the numbers are wrong. Nice job.

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    2. Why would Pitt build a light rail and a new highway? You might as well say gold plated toilets. Madison has a giant stadium right downtown and it works. Still have seen no proof of 1B.

      Heinz field: $281 million ($374.3 million today)
      Peteren: 119 million ($158 million in 2014 dollars

      Pitt needs way less seats and the footprint won't be that huge. Pgh land is way cheap to buy. Just let it go. Maybe in 30 years it will be 1B but you are wrong now.

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    3. Your link has 3 other options that are a lot cheaper too. What is wrong with them now?

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    4. The other three CSU options are to maintain the current stadium (not an option for Pitt) and to build the stadium one bite at a time. Which we can do, but will cost more to build in phases than to build all at once.

      Which is misleading: the first phase costs less (like, $190M vs. $225M), but then it's for a MUCH smaller stadium. Is that what we want? A stadium that seats 20-some thousand? Okay, then yes you can have that for about $250-300M using union contractors (instead of $3-400M). But then you're gonna pay a lot more later for the rest, when the stadium finally has enough seats to some students can finally come to the game. Which, lest we forget, was the original purpose to going back to campus.

      Finally, yes, I said the $225M construction price was low. That's not my estimate, it's what CSU is trying to sell because they're already having trouble selling that number, they'd have no chance to sell what we think is the real number.

      Finally #2, never mind who I work for, that's immaterial. Look at all the sources I've provided (with none back other than Tulane's cheap-ass bandbox, plus wet dreams that Pitt will get 200 acres somewhere just off-campus in urban Pittsburgh for free).

      And even if I'm wrong by half -- which I'm not -- you're still looking at average ticket prices of $150-200 per game, and you can't make debt service unless you sell out every game.

      Folks, we cannot afford it.

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    5. 200 acres??? Are you planning a giant stadium? You've provided no sources that say anything about 1B. For all I know you are just an engineer grad. If you're not with HOK, you're not in the stadium business.

      It will cost prob around 200-300 million for a 45k stadium.

      Penn state spent 100 million on updates to beaver

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    6. Which is in a giant corn field in the middle of nowhere.

      Delete
    7. Okay, Mr. Anonymous @ 10:17 PM, it's your turn: What do YOU do for a living? Who do you work for? What's your degree in, and when did you earn it?

      Because sure as hell, you're not in the stadium business. First of all, if you were you'd know that HOK is an architectural firm, and they're not the only one who designs stadiums, not by a longshot.

      Secondly, HOK generally doesn't construct the stadiums they design, they hire construction companies to do that. Companies like the one I work for, like the one that my friend owns that built the Rapids new stadium. In short there are literally thousands of companies in the stadium business, which you'd know if you were in it.

      And while we're at it, how 'bout a nickname, instead of hiding behind the Anonymous tag?

      Thanks in advance....

      Delete
    8. Ugh..not the other anonymous but......Imma Man! Im 40 is anonymous!!!

      Drives me crazy when a fake nickname person thinks they aren't.

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    9. I actually went to Pitt and live in Pittsburgh. I actually attend games unlike you. I'm also an engineer grad. HOK is the premier firm for stadium design. If you knew the stadium business you'd see they've done about every new one in the last 20 years for the major sports teams. You prob just work for Lowes and design decks.

      Yeah you're comment isn't anonymous at all. I'm glad Pitts admission has got harder cause now I see how it was.

      Delete
  52. I find it laughable that a university can't find the money to build a track - something most middle schools have - but can fund a 45k seat football stadium. Get real, huh?

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    1. It's not that they don't have the money.
      It's that they don't want to spend it on any athletics.
      Pretty sad the Track Team goes to Schenley Park for their workouts.

      Delete
  53. One of the "Anonymous brothers" above mentioned building an MLS-style soccer stadium to share with Pitt football (or vice-versa). Let's go there: The Colorado Rapids just build Dick's Sporting Goods Park:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick's_Sporting_Goods_Park

    The GC who built it is a very good personal friend of mine. Construction cost (per above): $130M using NON-UNION labor, and it only seats 18,000 (less than half of what we need for Pitt Stadium). Plus it is very bare bones, bench seats, nothing fancy at all.

    Is this what we want for Pitt Stadium? Okay fine. Then just double the capacity, and build it using union labor, and you're still looking at $3-400M. If you had a site to build it on, which we don't. And quadruple the cost of game tickets while we're at it.

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  54. Chris:

    I sometimes criticize you for your negativity, but I must compliment you for a very thoughtful, well-reasoned, and thorough article.

    The only thing that surprises me is that you don't have any opinions about how there could be an on-campus stadium. This surprises me because I can't remember you ever not having opinions about whatever you are writing about. I totally agree that an on-campus stadium would be better than Heinz Field. So if you do have thoughts about how this could be done, I would appreciate hearing them.

    Just one question: Do you have any indication about how supportive of athletics, and especially football, the new chancellor will be?

    Again, I want to thank you for this article. It obviously required a fair amount of time to write it, and it is greatly appreciated.

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    1. I've never lived in the city and I've never spent a lot of time there so I'm not going to act like I know when I don't.

      As for the chancellor I don't know. We'll find out eventually.

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    2. When you say "the city" do you mean Oakland or the City of Pittsburgh?

      Delete
  55. Unfortunately there is no prospect on the near-term horizon - between now and Heinz' demolition, likely in the mid 2030's - of Pitt getting its own stadium, much less in Oakland. Don't misunderstand, I want it.

    But, I implore my fellow readers to notice how far down the list the stadium issue is on Chris's list. It's the catnip - like the rest of you, I could read about and day dream about an Oakland football stadium for days, but it's not the first, biggest, most important or easiest of our problems to fix.

    What a lot of us don't realize is that the stadium issue is a red herring and we fall for it every time. Pitt has a bad game/season and someone yells "on-campus stadium" and we fall all over ourselves talking about it. When we use our time and energy focusing on the stadium like we do, seriously read any Pitt blog, its THE topic - we let Pitt off the hook for the things it actually controls. If we decided tomorrow we were going to build an on-campus stadium it'd be 5-7 years before it was ready to go, at the earliest. Are you really willing to concede football failure for that long?

    1. Fire Steve Pederson, tomorrow.
    2. Commit the financial resources to hire a top flight AD, which likely means stealing one from a big time program. Which will not be cheap.
    3. Give that AD a football coaching staff salary budget that allows the AD to get the best candidate for the head coaching job. Period.

    Just like Dokish said. The stadium issue is way down the list. It's a heckuva lot faster, more important, and more prudent to do those three things than build a stadium. If we don't get those three things right first, no stadium will house a winner, no matter where it is.

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    1. I did put it down the list for a reason. Pitt could conceivably win without one as long as the other criteria is met. But having a stadium would help as well as give the fans more actual fun.

      Delete
    2. I agree with you completely, but I think the case for an on-campus stadium becomes stronger after we start winning because it (theoretically) improves the revenue stream. And the conversation goes from can Pitt ever be relevant, to "the only way Pitt can take the next step is an on-campus stadium/stadium of it's own."

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  56. Regarding the stadium, and I know this won't be popular, but the first thing we need to do is tarp the whole bleacher section behind the end zone. That shrinks the stadium down to about 55K. They should then tarp the top 5-7 rows on both sides of the upper deck in a dark color, say, Pitt's navy blue. You won't even notice them, because they're up so high and out of the camera's view. That should get the stadium down to 45-50K which is a better size. Just having people closer together will increase the feel.

    Point blank, the biggest problem with Heinz Field is not that it's off campus, it's that even when Pitt is winning it's too big for the fan base and always will be. And it's going to get worse next year with the additional seating. We can't build a new stadium any time soon, so it's best to shrink our current one in the most tasteful way possible.

    Miami does it now, Baylor used to (before it built a smaller 50k seat stadium). Pitt should follow suit. Do you really think it's more embarrassing to have 20 thousand empty bright yellow seats or a giant Lets Go Pitt tarp over the end zone bleachers?

    Baylor: http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2013/1104/ncf_e_baylor11_600x400.jpg
    Miami: http://cmgpbpcaneswatch.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/ept_sports_ncaaf_experts-125624677-1289065513_medium.jpg

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    1. I can buy a house in south oakland for 175k. I buy 50 of them for 10 million. That's if I want to build there.

      Delete
    2. Well, you'd need a 100 lots, parking, utilities elimination, demolition and removal, rezoning, environmental review, permitting, and infrastructure updates even before you get to the actual building. But yes, it could be done if that's your point? I'm not really sure what that has to do with tarping the excess seating though.

      Delete
  57. Chris, just wanted to say I love your honesty and appreciate your criticism of the Pitt football program and athletic department in general. I couldn't agree with you more! I only found your blog, because someone mentioned you on the Post Gazette's article replies section today. The PG's writers candy coat everything they write as though they were on Pederson's payroll, it's disgusting.

    Living in Los Angeles and around Pac 12 people as well as countess SEC, Big 12 and Big 10 transplants, its embarrassing wearing my Pitt shirt to a sports bar on a fall Saturday. I'm ether mistaken for a Penn alum, or ridiculed for the lousy football we play. The program is in shambles and hopefully the new chancellor will clean house and get us back to respectability.

    Wish you were on staff at the PG so we'd actually have a local beat reporter to tell it like it is.

    Anyway, Keep up the great work. You have a new loyal follower..........

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  58. Awesome piece, Chris. I would caution my fellow readers on one thing though, don't assume that having our own stadium = having it "on-campus." Some commenters have made this point. Autzen stadium at the University of Oregon, an awesome game day experience, is 2.6 miles from the campus across the river. But it's Oregon's stadium and that is what makes the difference, I believe that will be the case with Pitt as well.

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    1. Remember Nordy and Pederson saying we would be co-tenants with the Steelers? They were certainly aware of ownership value as a selling point.

      We don't appear to be co-tenants. We have become sub-tenants.

      Delete
    2. Tony, Pitt has their own locker room separate from the Steelers. On the field, it is all Pitt signage, not one thing indicating Steelers. Yeah, the Great Hall is geared towards the Steelers, but even that has some Pitt memorabilia. So how is Pitt a "sub-tenant"?

      Delete
    3. We all realize we were lied to at this point. And yet, we remain entirely powerless. We have 2 options. Stop going to games or accept our fate.

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    4. I have accepted the first option. Sick and tired of telling myself next year will be better

      Delete
  59. Chris, it would appear that be inluding the stadium in your criteria, you overshadowed the more poignant points IMO ... specifically dumping the AD ASAP, and paying for a good coach and staff.

    But isn't this the history of Pitt FB ... it's not until we reach the bottom until the admin finally steps up to the plate? Examples: (1) three straight 1 win seasons in lates 60s/early70s, and then hire Majors with big recruiting budget, (2) 73-0 vs Ohio St with Majors II, and then hire Walt and improve the facilities.

    Maybe 6 fumbles and a 28 pt homecoming loss will do the trick this time .. butwon't bet on it.

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    1. Demanding a new on campus stadium, and sticking with this demand, will force Pitt officials to open a dialogue they are now unwilling to have.

      Go from there.

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    2. No, it actually won't. That's the problem. It does make for nice reading though.

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    3. Yes but you are forgetting Pitt's first solution is to always go cheap. 1-9 seasons in the late sixties brought us Carl DePasqua, no earth shaker of a coach. The fall of Paul Hackett brought us JMII. Enough said.

      Someone we've got to pass by the cheap stage and go for the best coach. Pitt just doesn't do that.

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  60. Chris, do you think we will finish better than 6th in the ACC for basketball?

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  61. 75% of the comments on this post are regarding the Stadium. An on-campus stadium is 10-15 years down the road. It's the least of my worries at this point regarding the program. Pitt needs change from top to bottom. The AD needs to be let go after this football season (don't even let him last the basketball year). A new AD should be in place by the summer so he has time to do a systematic review of the ENTIRE athletic operations. From marketing all the way down to equipment.

    As Chris mentioned in his post, Pederson didn't hire Dixon or Wannstedt, who like him or not had the best teams since the 80s. I don't want to regurgitate every detail, but the fact that he still has a job is an absolute joke.

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  62. The undeveloped brownfield/former mill site on the Mon River in Hazelwood would be able to sustain a new stadium. It's relatively close to campus via Greenfield Ave, Bates St. and it's close to the Parkway. Parking and space wouldn't be an issue. Land would be cheap. This area is set to be redeveloped anyway - think of the Waterfront 2 in 5-10 years, so a stadium would fit right in as an entertainment center and destination to anchor the development.

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  63. Chris - Long Time - First Time. Thank you so very much for the work you put in. Like many, I jones for your writing - but this is just a great great piece. Personally, I agree with all of your points. Each & every one of them. ADSP needs to go. I no longer permit my children to yell "H2P" when we see him walking his dog! The new man at the top deserves his own hire & while its true that the University is flourishing - Football remains a great opportunity to build the brand of the entire University. Your readers who don't understand your point about the endowment - never will. It is my sense that you are pointing to the 3B as an indicator to the overall health of the university & its ability to raise & invest money. Anyone that knows just a little about fundraising understands earmarks & specific vs general campaigns. A universities endowment is simply a benchmark, in this case, of the overall health of the university - its ability to pull on the heart strings of its most successful alums, the power of its brand & its ability to invest the endowment wisely. Pitt's ranking when examining these metrics is 5 star - impressive & enviable. As someone who grew up spitting distance to Pitt Stadium & has fond fond memories of mooching spirits from generous tailgaters at Syria Mosque in the early 80's - I have come to realize that I was afforded these memories simply because tickets were usually easily available for us neighborhood kids (or we just waited until halftime & the ushers let us walk right in!) - the place was rarely packed - yet the atmosphere rocked! To me the most compelling argument to revisit an on campus site is the absolute hassle getting to games is for the students. That said, the Monday Morning QB could argue we should've built a mini multi purpose dome on the site of the old stadium. Anyone that thinks we could build anywhere near the Schenley Park doesn't understand protected space laws & is smoking crack. The question I want Admin to answer is why they can't knock down Trees Hall & the Field House & build something there, to Imma's points Pitt already owns that land? Surely those buildings have been long depreciated & have exceeded their "useful life"? Regardless, lets focus on Bullet Points # 1-3 ASAP, keep an eye on #4 & get some real answers on #5 (oh & anyone that thinks we can build on the Magee Hospital site needs a bed at Western Psych - see US News & World Report Hospital Rankings & lets keep it real!). Keep doing what you are doing Chris - Pitt fans need to rally behind you & Chas as the voices of reason! Best, PtBreezeB

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  64. UH just built a new on campus football stadium for $150,000 million.

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    1. The Pete cost $119m in 1999. It holds 12,000. It's a very safe bet that it would cost 3 times that for a 45-50,000 seat stadium in Oakland today.

      Not everywhere is no zoning code, no tax, no labor cost, no regulation flat, nightmare like Houston. Things cost more in the civilized parts of America.

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  65. I agree with every point made in this article. I woke up early on Saturday (homecoming) Drove my son and his friend 5 hours across
    the state. Bought 3 club seats on stubhub ($750) , Got a overpriced room at the Doubletree ($325) only to be embarrassed . And finally after 25 years of emotional and financial support for my beloved alma mater, I no longer will give them either.

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    1. I came "thisclose" to FLYING across the country to watch the game. Thank goodness that something came up to cashier my plans.

      I hope you wrote a letter to the athletic department. I think you should, everyone should, things like that seem to get people's attention.

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    2. Or better yet, write the new chancellor.

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  66. Outstanding article and there are two things that are apparent that need to be corrected: First, the fact remains that even with the Stadium situation--which I totally agree sucks and an onsite stadium is the real answer--that even with the stadium situation as it stands, the "fix" is to win more games with the talent they already have. Wanndstadt, Graham, and now Chryst have all lost games that should have been won on the field with players already on the roster. Youngstown Sates? Akron? NC? Navy? Ga Tech? I mean, the list is long and very undistinguished. I mean when you size up the talent that has come thru here the past 10 years--McCoy, Larry Fitz, Revis, Dion, Connors, Boyd, Baldwin, I mean really, talent has not been an issue when it compares to the lower level scheduled teams and these game's outcomes. If you're up by ten at halftime against Iowa and cannot close the deal, blame the HC. If you are a 9 win team, but you cannot figure out how to beat BG at home, blame the coach. Losing to Akron, Ohio U, Toledo, etc, blame the Head Coaches. Those losses have nothing to do with stadiums, or students, they have to do with that day/date/game. Pitt should never lose to these schools. And it doesn't just happen once in a while, its now the norm. How in the hell did Pitt lose to a really bad Youngstown State team? As a HC, how do you not figure out the blueprint to win that game?
    The second issue that needs to be addressed is winning the local recruiting battles for the five or six top tier recruits. I mean, I know they have recently done well, but in typical "Pitt coming up short" fashion, they cannot seem to take good recruiting classes and take it up to Great. Losing Montae Nicholson, and Travon Henry is a travesty. Those two would be starting today!! Can you imagine that backfield. PC is a terrible coach. He should have sold the heck out of that prospective backfield, and Robert Foster should still be here too. This program cannot sign one decent LB in the State of PA? I mean, what is going on. Those players should have never been allowed to go anywhere. While some progress is made, it always seems to be 2 steps forward, 3 steps backwards. The problems are there and correctible but if you don't have the right visionary to see, its not that hard to do. It seems like every program in the country gets an opportunity to hit the big time except Pitt and Colorado. I mean, at some point, someone has to take advantage of this program and run with it. Hell, even Duke is 7-1.... I give up.

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  67. The only thing left say is what everyone already knows, (but is often overlooked): Winning and being in the top Ten is doable and completely within reach. Its not fantasy or a wet dream. This isn't rocket science... All it takes is the right head coach with the vision and ability to execute and someone that can communicate the vision to close the top several local recruits. Paul Chryst has an understated personality. That's no big deal in and of itself, however, if you WIN easy games, then you should be able to recruit with that style. PC cannot actually win the games. That's what' s killing the program.

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  68. Where is this college atmosphere coming from with a new on campus stadium?

    I attended tons of games at old Pitt stadium and there was not a great college atmosphere. You are altering your memories if you say there was.

    Maybe having a winning team would change that but I doubt it.

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    1. You obviously didn't attend in the 70's and 80's.

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    2. I've seen Pitt play at both Pitt Stadium and Heinz Field, and Pitt Stadium was a much better college atmosphere. It was much easier to see the field, and the overall experience far exceeds Heinz Field.

      I'm not altering anything; based on my experience I'd take Pitt Stadium over Heinz Field, and it's not even close.

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  69. Kentucky just extended Stoops to 2019 with a $4.25M base salary in that year. All 13 SEC schools that disclose salaries are paying their head coach at least $3M per year with Stoops bump. That is what commitment to football at a basketball oriented school looks like.

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    1. Pitt screwed up and never pursued him. Could have got him for $2mill and he has Ohio roots. So he went to Kentucky instead which borders Ohio.
      Stoops, Stoops, Stoops.

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    2. Stoops stoops stoops Got a long way to go did he really earned an extension or is he like his brother in Arizona???

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    3. Stoops Stoops Stoops...Did JoeD just weigh in???? LOL

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  70. Say we lose out... then I would support a change... I like Ed Ogeron... recruits well.. lots of contacts to put a staff together... has charisma.. I don't think we lose out though... I just have not seen his name mentioned.

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  71. Chris...

    I'm going to beat you to it.

    Why in the world would you put Blewitt at a BAD ANGLE to win the Game?

    Devastating loss... and it's ALL ON CHRYST!

    PittofDreams

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  72. Ugh, I don't even know where to begin with this column, because it lacks any factual evidence to back up it's assertions, but here goes.

    First, the endowment is not a piggy bank for any one part of the university, it's used to run the entire university. So while 3 billion looks like a huge number and portrays Pitt as being cheap, also take into consideration that Pitt is one of the leading medical research universities in the country. Mecial research doesn't happen for free, folks.

    Second, build a stadium? OK, for starters where is the money coming from? You're talking about a project that will cost in the hundreds of millions, the Pete couldn't even be built without financial assistance from the state, and we're talking a 12,000 seat multi-purpose arena. Given that financial assistance would not be coming from the state for this project, who's footing the bill?

    After that, exactly where are you going to put it? You can't just build a stadium and that's it. You have to also have the infrastructure either available or funding available to provide the infrastructure surrounding the stadium. As stated above, not happening with the state, so where is the money coming from for land and infrastructure as well.

    If you're a Pitt fan, you have to face facts. The university will never sell out to athletics because they're intelligent enough to realize that their major programs also compete with three professional sports franchises in a declining population market. For pitt to do that would be suicidal on their part, and you're just not going to see that happen.

    Mike W.

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    1. www.panther-hollow.org

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