Reporting Colin Dunlap
PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — Now it’s on you, Pitt football fans.
Athletic director Steve Pederson has held up his end of the bargain.
Yes, now it’s up to you.
On Monday, Pitt’s 2013 football schedule was unveiled and, more to the point, the portion of the schedule that will be played at Heinz Field was what jumped off the page.
Florida State pays a visit to get the season started on Labor Day weekend with Virginia, Notre Dame, North Carolina and Miami, Fla. at the North Shore venue at various times through autumn.
Certainly there are should-be-rent-a-victims New Mexico and Old Dominion — perhaps lopsided games that you might have to sit through — but the other five home dates, from a quality-of-opponent standpoint, more than offset what could be a couple of dull-ish Saturdays.
Now to the true point: you have no excuses, no justifications, no validations this season to leave wide spaces of yellow seats empty.
If you do, it’s on you, fully on you.
Again, Pederson — and also Chancellor Mark Nordenberg — did their jobs, and did them swimmingly.
For years and years (especially last season) Pitt fans have whined and moaned, used an inborn Yinzer trait of complaining for the sake of complaining (I have the trait too) and held steadfast to a few pillars as to why Pitt’s football attendance wasn’t at the level at which it should be. To wit, some of the main reasons Pitt football struggled to fill seats in the past and, especially last season when the program averaged 41,494 (ahem, ahem), are explained away as follows:
1. Pitt played a schedule that wasn’t full of appetizing opponents.
2. This is a pro town, where pro teams dominate the sports landscape and, by extension, the entertainment dollar.
3. Pitt simply doesn’t win enough.
4. Heinz Field is off-campus, lending itself to be student-unfriendly.
First off, No. 4 is shot out of the water immediately, as the final few seasons at Pitt Stadium, Pitt fans — students or no students — weren’t exactly fighting each other for tickets.
In terms of No. 2 — the pro town argument — it is something interesting, but I’ve often thought that if you did Nos. 3 and 1 more, people will come. Merely, if you played more appetizing games and/or won more, people had many, many less excuses to stay at home.
When Pitt divulged the 2013 schedule on Monday, Pederson thoroughly took care of one of those components, giving Pitt fans a quality schedule and, truth be told, it is more on head coach Paul Chryst to raise the win total than it is on Pederson or Nordenberg.
Again, Pederson did about as much of his job as he could from his athletic director chair. Remember, he also helped with the facilitation of pushing Villanova off the schedule in Week 1, piecing in Old Dominion later in the slate so that Pitt fans can have their own little Labor Day soiree against a real team — Florida State — at Heinz Field to open the season.
Also remember, in the near future, Pitt has Penn State and Iowa coming to town in non-conference games.
Some will say the movement to the Atlantic Coast Conference merited the strong 2013 schedule more than Pederson and, from this view, that just isn’t the case.
If it weren’t for Pederson and Nordenberg having a clear vision that the buffoonery of former Big East commissioner John Marinatto and his cronies was steering the Big East into an iceberg at 100mph, what happened Monday might have never happened. Simply, Pederson saw the road the Big East Conference was headed two turns before it got to that road and he and Nordenberg decided to take a much better detour.
If there was inaction on Pederson’s part, the press conference held Monday might have been unveiling home dates with Houston, Memphis, Temple and Central Florida.
Don’t ever forget that.
The proactive move of getting the heck out of the Big East before a mass exodus, no matter what quarrels you might have had with Pederson in the past, might have very well saved Pitt athletics moving forward.
There’s no telling what will happen in terms of wins and losses this season, no way to accurately prognosticate if Pitt will go 0-12, 12-0 or, probably more reasonably, somewhere in the middle.
But know this much: One of the shrieks from Pitt fans, for a long while now, has been about the quality of the football schedule.
Steve Pederson stepped up and changed that, he vastly improved it, the proof is right there in the names of the opponents.
Now, it’s your job to show up.