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Pitt dealing with scheduling conflict

Thursday, Aug. 17, 2006

Pitt athletic officials are scrambling for solutions to a scheduling snafu that could create parking and traffic problems on the North Shore on Sept. 16.

Contractual obligations with ABC Sports to regionally televise the Pitt-Michigan State game as scheduled at 3:30 p.m. at Heinz Field will force a conflict with the Pirates, who play the New York Mets at 7:05 p.m. at PNC Park.

The stadiums share parking lots -- including pre-paid parking spaces -- and Pitt could be forced find alternative parking and shuttle fans to and from the stadium.

This is not the first time Pitt athletic director Jeff Long has dealt with a scheduling problem at Heinz Field. The Panthers will play Louisville there Nov. 25, a date typically reserved for the WPIAL football championships. The WPIAL finals were moved to Nov. 24.

Long declined comment Wednesday, as did Big East Conference officials. Neither Heinz Field executive director Jimmy Sacco nor officials from the Sports and Exhibition Authority returned calls seeking comment.

"It's the kind of situation you hope never happens, but you're dealing with three units and two venues who share one common parking lot," said Keith Molin, Pitt interim senior associate athletic director. "We're trying to find ways around that. I have every confidence we'll find a way to accommodate everyone involved."

Last year, the Pirates obliged by moving a night game to a noon start so Pitt could play Notre Dame that night in a nationally televised season opener.

This year, however, the Pitt-Michigan State game conflicts with Jack Wilson bobblehead night and an anticipated crowd of at least 30,000.

"The Pirates and Steelers have done this successfully ever since both buildings opened," said Patty Paytas, Pirates vice president of communications. "Pitt has been aware since August of last year that this game was scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on Sept. 16."

Further complicating the scenario is a new partnership between Pitt and the Pirates. PNC Park hosts the Panther Zone, site of pregame activities for Pitt students, for all home games. It also is the starting point for Pitt's March to Victory and the Panther Prowl to Heinz Field.

"To be honest with you, that's something I don't get involved with," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "My job is to have the football team ready to play against Michigan State, whether it's home or away, noon or 3, on TV or not on TV."

Molin said he talked to Michigan State athletic officials yesterday to inform them of the conflict. He said Pitt would continue to look into changing the game time "until someone tells me for the record that it can't happen."

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