Pitt's ACC debut thrills with visit by exciting foe Florida State
A possible sellout crowd at Heinz Field and a national television audience could welcome the University of Pittsburgh's first football game as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference on Monday.
Anticipation has been running hot for the 8 p.m. game against Florida State University, a new conference rival and marquee name.
“As far as the city and our alums and the university, it's a big deal, and I think people are treating it as such,” second-year coach Paul Chryst said. “We are truly excited about joining the ACC.”
People have debated and dissected, pontificated on and moralized about the football-fueled realignment of big-time college sports. It is a complicated, controversial topic that embraces such weighty issues as loyalty, money, honor, money, geography and money.
Guess which issue is most important. Right or wrong, fair or unfair, a different world has emerged. Expediency and reality have prevailed.
For Pitt, reality is about to hit home.
“I don't remember a game to open the season that has been this anticipated,” athletic director Steve Pederson said.
Pitt and Syracuse University announced nearly two years ago that they would leave the Big East Conference for the ACC. Inspired mainly by more than $17 million annually from TV and increased exposure, and a better brand of football, the move further affected a terrain altered by the end of long-standing conference affiliations, traditional rivalries and geographic integrity.
“The financial considerations determine a lot of those maneuvers,” said emeritus Pitt trustee Tom Bigley, long a supporter of his alma mater and the former head of the board of trustees' athletic committee. “They're not necessarily good for everyone, but I think in our case, it worked out very, very well.”
The move certainly was not good for the Big East, which had been pummeled by earlier departures. Feelings once again were bruised — but worse, the Pitt and Syracuse departures confirmed the inevitable end of the league's prestige as a serious football entity. Its TV money had become pocket change compared with the riches offered by other conferences, such as the ACC. It was only a matter of time.
“I hated to leave the Big East, which was the best basketball conference ever, but as it turns out, it was held together with safety pins and chewing gum,” said Bill Hillgrove, who is starting his 44th season in the radio booth calling Pitt games, his 40th as the play-by-play man.
“With the current landscape in college football, when the tremors start, you never know how big they're going to be. I look at it as musical chairs. If the music stops, you better have a chair to sit in.”
Pitt found a cushy seat in the ACC, a pretty fair basketball outfit in its own right. As a football conference, it might not rank as high as the Southeastern Conference, Big Ten or Pac-12, but overall the competition is better than that to which the Panthers were accustomed.
“We're excited. We're honored to be in the ACC with the cream of the crop, the Miamis, the Florida States, teams like that,” senior wide receiver Devin Street said.
According to Pitt officials, more than 90 percent of available season tickets are sold. Associate athletic director Craig Ferris said crowds at marketing events throughout Western Pennsylvania have been larger than before.
Pederson, who brokered Pitt's move with Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, said he is “shocked” at the extent of the enthusiasm he sees.
“People say, ‘I love the ACC. I can't wait for this game,' ” Pederson said. “I was just at an event on the North Shore, and people were just buzzing about it. It has been very noticeable.”
Bob Cohn is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BCohn_Trib. Staff writer Jerry DiPaola contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Authorities identify man killed in second Northview Heights shooting
- Foreign influx in Allegheny County at ‘tipping point’
- Beloved teacher at 3 Western Pa. schools hears from students across nation
- 2 sentenced for avoiding arrest after Steelers player was stabbed
- Seattle’s first legal marijuana shop runs out
- Squirrel Hill Tunnel workers cope with speeders, exhaust fumes
- Pennsylvania Resources Council puts hazardous materials in their place
- Pitt’s new chancellor Gallagher to continue broad role at school
- Victim identified in Pleasant Hills apartment fire
- Liberty Tunnel set to close; other highway projects around Pittsburgh also to start
- Bus detours set for weekend East Busway construction