Pitt football coach Chryst preaches the benefits of bowl game

Jerry DiPaola
| Monday, Nov. 26, 2012, 9:10 p.m.

There is nothing unique about a college team going to a bowl game.

Seventy schools — more than half of those in the FBS — earn invitations to the 35 games scheduled between Dec. 15 and Jan. 7.

Nonetheless, coach Paul Chryst would treat a bowl bid as one of the crowning accomplishments of his first season at Pitt.

“You only go to a bowl game if you achieve a certain level,” Chryst said. “That's certainly a goal.”

In Pitt's case, that would mean beating South Florida on Saturday night and reaching a .500 record in the regular season (6-6) for the second consecutive season.

That likely would lead to the school's fifth bowl berth in a row, either the Pinstripe, BBVA Compass, Liberty or Beef ‘O' Brady's.

“There absolutely is value to it,” Chryst said. “The benefits to the program and the rewards to the players are huge.”

The tangible benefits to the players — other than the gift bags and free meals offered by bowl officials at the site — would be license to practice 15 more times.

Senior guard Chris Jacobson, who has gone to a bowl game in all but his freshman season with the Panthers in 2007, said the experience would be good for younger players who didn't get a lot of practice time during the regular season.

“We really got after it, the younger guys, and the older guys got a break,” he said, recalling previous pre-bowl practices. “It's kind of rough, actually. I feel bad for the younger guys,” he said, laughing.

Of course, Pitt will go nowhere this postseason if it can't defeat South Florida (3-8, 1-5) on Saturday night in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

Chryst said he doesn't expect the Panthers to take the Bulls lightly, even though they have lost eight of their past nine games.

“Shame on us if we don't have the right attitude,” Chryst said. “It also means to me you haven't watched much tape. You throw on the film and you see talented players.

“That would be a big mistake not respecting any opponent, and especially this one.”

Chryst said he has heard players talk about their desire to go to a bowl.

“I'm glad they are talking that way,” he said. “We have to make sure their actions (this week in practice and against South Florida) show that.”

Beyond this week, preparations for this year's bowl game likely would be more intense and more meaningful than they were a year ago when Pitt prepared for its second consecutive Compass Bowl after coach Todd Graham's sudden resignation.

In fact, this appears like it would be Pitt's first bowl since 2009 that an interim coach won't be in charge of the proceedings. Pitt went to the Compass Bowl in 2010 after Dave Wannstedt had been fired.

Asked what would be one of the benefits of going to a bowl game, Chryst said: “Selfishly, to be around these guys for one more game.”

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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