ESPN ranking: Pitt football fans among most unhappy in country
ESPN.com probably got some Pitt fans thinking and more than likely angered many of them with its Fan Happinesss Index, which ranked the school 116th among 130 football-playing FBS teams. It was released Monday, two days after the loss to Penn State.
It’s a measurement of fans’ satisfaction with the program, based on seven criteria: team strength and accomplishment, head coach hot seat rating (more on that one later), recruiting trend, rivalry dominance, revenue growth, Twitter sentiment rating and in-game panic rating. For the purposes of the current ranking, recruiting trend is omitted because it’s more of an off-season (remember Father’s Day, Pitt fans?) thing.
It seems to be quite subjective, apparently using opinions, educated guesses and tweets, but no quotes from disgruntled fans who were just drying off from the Penn State downpour Saturday night by the time the rankings appeared Monday.
Pitt is ahead of only two Power 5 schools (North Carolina and Kansas). Maybe that portends a good future for Pitt’s basketball program, but let’s not digress.
ESPN used a 1-to-100 scoring system for each category. Pitt’s best was revenue growth (85, no doubt fueled by its membership in a Power 5 conference).
Its worst was rivalry dominance (4). That’s probably because of 51-6 and Penn State coach James Franklin’s refusal to acknowledge a rivalry with Pitt. Yet, would Franklin have challenged a fumble recovery by Akron while leading by 45 points in the final minute of the game? (To be fair, maybe he would. Who knows? No one has ever presented that scenario to him.) Sorry, too much digression.
Pitt didn’t do well in the other categories, either: Team strength (30), in-game panic from fans (38), estimated percentage of positive-sentiment tweets (22) and percentage chance the head coach will be fired either during or after this season (30).
30? Uh, no. Not at Pitt.
Try this number: 0!
Yes, Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi has won only five games against Power 5 schools since upsetting Clemson in 2016, but the man has a contract through 2024. Yes, 51-6 hurt the fan base, but I don’t think — no, I know — Pitt’s adminstration has no taste for paying a coach for six years while paying his replacement for another four or five. Donors’ money can be put to better use.
Yes, Pitt fans are unhappy, but unhappiness is a fleeting thing.
ESPN performed the same exercise in November. Cincinnati is No. 1 in this year’s survey, but was 84th — two spots below Pitt — only 10 months ago.
What changed? The Bearcats didn’t lose a bowl game — they didn’t play in one — but posted a 3-1 record between surveys.
Their fans will be delirious after they beat Alabama A&M on Saturday.
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Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.