Pitt notebook: Autographs will be monitored closely

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, 7:03 p.m.

Pitt will place no new restrictions on people who want autographs at the school's annual Fan Fest, but officials will monitor the event Aug. 25 at Heinz Field carefully.

“Our consciousness has been raised about this particular issue,” said E.J. Borghetti, senior associate athletic director.

A problem arose across college football this year when Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M was accused of taking money for signing 4,400 items for three brokers in three states in a one-month span, according to ESPN.com.

Louisville has forbidden players from signing autographs, replacing its annual event with an open practice. Texas A&M will not allow players to sign anything but specially designed autograph cards.

Pitt won't be especially strict, but officials will keep their eyes open, Borghetti said.

“As always, we have certainly encouraged fans to not come with a boatload of items for the sake of other people who want autographs and want to meet our kids,” he said.

“At the same time, we are certainly going to be very cognizant of red flags. If someone shows up with 20 copies of the same image and doesn't want them personalized, then that obviously suggests it's not a personal keepsake and perhaps somebody has some other intentions.”

At West Virginia, officials took no chances last Sunday when players and coaches signed autographs for two hours. The school provided autograph sheets, posters and NCAA compliance handouts outlining regulations prohibiting the sale of items bearing the name of the athletes.

Only one item per person was permitted, and players were not allowed to pose for pictures.

Penn State players sign autographs several times throughout the year, but there are no formal restrictions on the number of items they can sign.

“Generally, in a home post-game situation, there would be a large enough group of fans that a player would only sign an item or two for one person,” spokesman Jeff Nelson said.

Injury update

Running back Isaac Bennett hasn't practiced since last Friday after hurting his right knee, but coach Paul Chryst said he has not started to worry.

“Certainly you worry about all your players (who are injured),” he said. “He is doing everything he can (to return to practice).”

Cornerback K'waun Williams also was limited in practice while Chryst and his staff monitor an undisclosed injury. Overall, Williams has not missed much time at practice.

“We want to give him a little bit of a physical break,” Chryst said.

Coach speaks

Coaches were vocal in their criticism at practice — no more than usual — but at one point Chryst called the team together to explain himself in clear terms.

Asked about it later, he smiled and called it “a good little family meeting. I was just seeing how they're doing.”

Some praise, too

The coach also had praise for his players, who have had only one day off since Aug. 6 and practiced twice Thursday.

“You get to a certain point in camp where you have to see some execution,” he said. “There was good execution and good learning. Guys are putting themselves into the moment, and they are learning the significance of the situation.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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