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Pitt expects to reap ACC benefits

| Thursday, July 19, 2012, 7:00 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Former Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson

Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson usually doesn't shrug after spending $2.5 million of the university's money, but chancellor Mark Nordenberg may allow an exception in this case.

Pitt's move from the Big East to the ACC will more than triple the Panthers' annual TV revenue to $17 million from less than $5 million, covering the added cost of switching conferences next year 17 months early.

Pitt is paying the Big East $7.5 million, $2.5 million over the originally mandated fee but short of the $10 million the conference will demand from the next football school that attempts to leave.

“When you look at where we are going and the financial impact of this,” Pederson said Thursday, “you can almost just look at the television contract alone and know literally in a very short period of time, probably within the first year, we will be able to make up the difference and get this taken care of.”

Pederson didn't promise a spending spree with the excess revenue or identify areas that need addressed, but he suggested recruiting budgets could be upgraded.

“If need be,” he said. “As (coaches) begin to recruit different areas of the country, we will take a look at that and see if it matters.”

Pitt might find the need to increase the recruiting budget for its baseball program that will find opponents more challenging. After this past season, eight of 12 ACC schools were ranked among the top 32 in the nation, including No. 3 Florida State (50-17) and No. 8 North Carolina (46-16). Pitt (28-28) finished No. 167.

“You might be able to recruit somebody who you couldn't otherwise recruit,” Pederson said, “because they see you as an ACC baseball team, and the opportunity to play there really becomes appealing.

“The ACC is good in everything. It is going to be a challenge for us, but I've been meeting with our coaches over the last several days, and they are up for it.”

Pederson said he is “absolutely comfortable” joining the ACC after Florida State Board of Trustees chairman Andy Haggard and football coach Jimbo Fisher hinted this spring about considering entry into the Big 12.

“I haven't seen the slightest bit of weakness in anybody, from the presidential level to the AD level, at all in this conference,” Pederson said. “We are in meeting rooms with these guys, and you are talking with them on the phone, and the teams sometimes that are talked about (leaving) are very committed.”

He said the ACC can impact college athletics.

“You now have a conference that controls the Eastern Seaboard from Boston to Miami,” he said. “You have unbelievable TV markets, outstanding academic institutions.

“The East Coast is such an important part of the United States. When you control the East Coast, you really have something special.”

Note: Pitt running back Ray Graham was named one of 52 candidates for the Doak Walker Award, presented annually to the top back in the nation. Ohio State's Jordan Hall (Jeannette) and Penn State's Silas Redd also made the list.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com.

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