AD Pederson, Panthers seeking sellouts
By Kevin Gorman
Published: Tuesday, March 3, 2009,
Upon returning to Pitt, athletic director Steve Pederson inherited a football program with All-American candidates on both sides of the ball and the promise of success after its season-ending upset of West Virginia.
The Panthers boosted their season-ticket sales by 11,000.
Now, a year later, Pitt is pushing to sell out Heinz Field for a team devoid of bona fide superstars — after the graduation of middle linebacker Scott McKillop and early entry to the NFL by tailback LeSean McCoy — but coming off its first nine-win season in more than a quarter century.
To do so, Pitt is offering season-ticket packages ranging from $82 to $280 that increase prices by only $10 despite adding a seventh home game to the schedule this fall. Five of the visitors to Heinz Field earned bowl berths last season, including non-conference opponents Navy and Notre Dame.
"There's 'real' momentum and, obviously, an excellent team," Pederson said. "I kind of view this as an opportunity to see a bunch of new, young stars step up. In some ways, it's even more intriguing to see who the new stars are going to be. ... That's what's exciting."
Pitt announced its non-conference schedule and season-ticket prices Monday, as well as new initiatives for the annual Blue-Gold Game. The Panthers will open at home against Youngstown State on Sept. 5, play at Buffalo on Sept. 12, play host to Navy on Sept. 19, at North Carolina State on Sept. 26 and receive the first visit since 2005 from Notre Dame on Nov. 14.
Pitt also will play host to Big East foes Connecticut, Cincinnati, Syracuse and South Florida, and will visit Rutgers, Louisville and West Virginia. The conference schedule, however, has yet to be released.
Pederson said it's his preference to play West Virginia again the day after Thanksgiving before an ABC national television audience, especially after the crowd of 63,019 was the Big East's biggest draw of the season.
"That's our hope, that we can keep it there," Pederson said. "That's obviously a great national slot, and I thought we benefited from that last year. That's a great national audience."
Pitt made a dramatic improvement in season-ticket sales, from 30,000 in 2007 to 41,000 in 08, and from 33,316 to 49,352 in average home attendance. Now, it wants to sell its capacity of available season tickets, which ranges from 52,000-55,000 in the 65,050-seat stadium.
"When we look back at 2008, it was really an exciting year: Our average attendance at Heinz Field increased by 60 percent, our season-ticket sales increased by 50 percent, our student season-ticket sales increased by 100 percent and we sold nearly double the amount of season parking passes than the year prior," said Chris Ferris, Pitt associate athletic director for marketing and promotions. "Our fans were incredible and really helped our team win on the field and made dramatic steps in taking our program forward in the stands."
What Pitt doesn't yet have is a household name like McCoy or McKillop. To counteract that, it is attempting to improve the name recognition by increasing fan interaction with the team.
To that end, Pitt will replace its pre-scrimmage autograph session with a Spring Football Festival before the Blue-Gold Game April 11 at Heinz Field. Admission is free and gates open at noon. From 12:30-1:30 p.m., Panthers players will conduct a free clinic for children 12-and-under, while the coaching staff will hold a "chalk-talk" session.
"I always say that the greatest thing we have going here is great people, whether it's our coaches on staff or our student-athletes. We're very proud of them and I love any interaction anybody has with them," Pederson said. "When you stand in line to get an autograph, you might get a brief interaction with one, maybe two players. The thought of a whole grouping of young children down on the field, working with one of our players ... I think, is special."
More bang for the buck
A look at 2009 Pitt football season ticket prices (with Panther Club donation in parentheses), which increased only slightly despite adding a seventh game to the schedule:
Upper end zone: $82
Lower end zone/upper sideline: $109
Lower sideline/upper sideline: $154
Panther Red: $154 ($50)
Panther Blue: $154 ($75)
Panther Gold: $154 ($100)
North Club: $280 ($250)
Club: $280 ($250/$500)
For more information, call 412-648-PITT or go to www.pittsburghpanthers.com
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.