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Pitt coach Chryst keeps focus on football field

| Tuesday, July 31, 2012, 9:01 a.m.
Pitt football coach Paul Chryst speaks with the media during the Big East Conference football media day, Tuesday, July 31, 2012, Newport, R.I. (AP)
Pitt defensive lineman Aaron Donald, right, and safety Jarred Holley, left, answer questions from the media during the Big East Conference football media day, Tuesday, July 31, 2012, Newport, R.I. (AP)
Pitt running back Ray Graham will be a game-day decision for the Panthers' game Saturday versus Youngstown State. AP
Former Pitt coach Paul Chryst is introduced as Wisconsin's coach during a news conference Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, at the Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion in Madison, Wis.

NEWPORT, R.I. — The question about conference affiliation caught Paul Chryst while he was looking the other way, when he was doing something that can get lost in talk of realignment, billion-dollar television contracts and lawsuits.

With the start of training camp less than a week away, the Pitt football coach was thinking about, of all things, football.

“You are making me nervous here,” he said, laughing, when a reporter asked about preparations involved in moving next year from the Big East to the ACC. “Like I should be planning a lot more.”

While interim Big East commissioner Joe Bailey and senior associate commissioner Nick Carparelli prepare for the start of negotiating the next TV contract — with millions of dollars and the conference's longstanding viability at stake — Chryst mulls how long to spend on special teams when practice begins Monday.

“Your world is coaching and recruiting and making sure the guys who are there are growing as people,” Chryst said Tuesday at Big East Media Day. “I think that would apply no matter what conference you're in.”

The Big East stands at a crossroads, ready to welcome six new teams while bidding farewell to Pitt and Syracuse, who will join the ACC for the 2013-14 academic year.

Chryst said he doesn't know the potential impact of joining the ACC, although he admits it has opened doors that might have remained closed.

“Whether that translates into getting guys, we'll see,” he said.

He said his staff will meet this week to discuss recruiting goals one final time before the start of the season. Then it's football and getting ready for the Sept. 1 opener against Youngstown State and the Big East opener five days later at Cincinnati.

Chryst said Pitt might point south a bit more often in chasing players, but the baseline remains the same, no matter the conference.

“I still think it's Western Pennsylvania that has to be home,” he said.

With Boise State and San Diego State joining the Big East next year, the conference will use its wide footprint to sell itself to networks when contract talks open next month, Bailey said.

“We can have a Big East football game on (TV) anytime of the day,” he said.

To that end, representatives from 12 bowls and three networks met with conference officials over the past several days. The Big East is the only one of the six power conferences without a major bowl affiliation, but Carparelli, a candidate to become permanent commissioner, said the Orange Bowl — and a potential matchup with the ACC champion — is not out of the question.

“The Orange Bowl has expressed a desire to have Big East teams in their game when it's appropriate,” he said. “I don't see why that can't happen.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com or 412-320-7997.

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