Friday Bits & Pieces; June 24th

Here is Chris Peak’s podcast from yesterday – you can listen to it while pretending to work.

Big News!!!  Pitt AD Scott Barnes is up to some new  tricks .  This time he’s putting his (departmental) goals down in writing for the world to see.  Yesterday his office announced a new vision for Pitt sports in The Strategic Plan for Athletics 2016-2021

From a guy who has written a few of those and business plans and mission statements let me say this -don’t etch it in stone. But reading it over you can see that some real time and effort went into it.  And something for fans to understand about this – when an organization of any sort builds a plan like this one then distributes it in public it is a pretty gutsy move.

At the very least it opens the drafters and owners of the plan up to close scrutiny and accountability down the road.  Generic as it is in the main, there are some specifics in it (discussed later here) that Pitt can point directly to when sitting Barnes down in the hot seat.

As to the document itself… as they all do it starts of setting what should be clear goals. I say should be because when one is talking about sport there is a whole lot of uncertainty and wiggle room.  It isn’t like saying “We will acquire 10,000 more paying subscribers to our newsletter by the 3rd quarter of FY 2017” or something specific like that.

The six goals established in the Strategic Plan are:

  • Compete at a level of athletic excellence measured by championships, ACC finishes, national rankings and the Director’s Cup while maintaining program integrity.
  • Recruit, develop and retain the best student-athletes, coaches and staff that embody the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion while supporting their continued growth and success.
  • Educate, retain and graduate our student-athletes with an emphasis on achieving academic excellence at a rate that compares favorably within the ACC and nationwide.
  • Strengthen our resource-base in order to facilitate championship level success across the athletic department.
  • Prioritize and allocate our resources with a focus on the growth and success of our athletic programs and infrastructure.
  • Unify our Pitt Alumni and friends worldwide and inspire pride through enhanced collaboration, communication and engagement.

In his cover letter to the public, really targeting those in the public associated with the university, he says this:

Throughout our plan, you will learn how we intend to achieve competitive success; maintain program integrity; develop the finest staff, coaches and student-athletes; graduate our student-athletes; strengthen and prioritize our resource base; and enhance engagement and communication with our constituencies.  Our staff has already taken action on several objectives and strategies that support these goals, and we will continue to utilize the Strategic Plan for Pitt Athletics as we Inspire Pride and Build Champions.

Click this link to read the Plan for Pitt Athletics.

Hail to Pitt!

S. Scott Barnes
Director of Athletics

Hard to argue with any of that. It is the things that Pitt should have been doing, and I think mostly have been doing, for a long time.  But it makes sense to formalize it in a over-arching concept of the way forward.

However, the cynic in me sees small cracks in this that, while not showstoppers by any means, makes me read it two or three times to understand the intent.  Here’s one.

In Strategic Objective 6.4.B (Oh how I miss the Military; developing crap like this is what I kept getting kicked upstairs to do in Headquarters and the Pentagon) we read:

“Partner and strategize with our sponsors and rights holder to interact with our fans during games.”

Does that mean the Rooneys are going to be hiring the halftime entertainment of Pitt games?  What exactly does that mean?  Sounds kind of scary. Here’s a good idea… win  games by good and skillful play and I’ll be perfectly entertained thank you.  Oh, and turn off the asinine music between the plays at home football games, its irritating as hell.

Later in the document Barnes shows that he’s “in tune with the times” with this 6.5.C entry:

Focus on strengthening “cross-promotional” efforts across each of our social media platforms.

In yesterday’s Pitt POV article we talked about how Pitt and Narduzzi have embraced social media to generate excitement among the Pitt Football ‘family’ and how well that has turned out.  So I’m not surprised to see this line item entry here.

But I have a problem when the only social media being used is controlled exclusively by Pitt.  Barnes stated before, and reiterates it in his manifesto, that the Fans Experience Committee will be the key element in addressing how to make the game days more fun for all concerned.

Which is fine but by my reckoning it appears that Anson Whaley of the blog Cardiac Hill is the only blogger on the committee.   I was pretty adamant earlier that to really gauge what the fans want Pitt should have had more bloggers involved.  An example of this reasoning is that The Pitt Blather pulled in more readers, views & visits and submitted comments than any other local Pitt football media (that wasn’t syndicated), some by a very large margin (like 200x).  A blog is a one-stop shop for fan interaction and to dismiss that almost completely out of hand is a big mistake.

But that may be what Barnes wants to have happen.  We saw his stumbling around at the press conference when asked the hard questions about his hire of Stallings as the BB coach (of which I have no positive or negative feelings BTW)  when he answered this way:

What started out as a pep rally quickly turned into a cross-examination.

There was enough perceived controversy attached to Kevin Stallings’ transition from Vanderbilt to Pitt to ensure as much when Stallings was introduced on Monday afternoon at the Petersen Events Center.

The presence of the band, the cheerleaders, the mascot and the returning Pitt team wasn’t going to change the tone of the proceedings, and the Pitt people knew it.

“I wanted to be here to get above the noise,” Athletic Director Scott Barnes announced, setting something of a defiant tone.

“The noise,” as Barnes characterized it, has inspired a reaction to Stallings’ hiring from fans and media that has seemingly waffled only between disappointment and outrage.

All that said this strategic plan looks good as far as these things do.  It will be, in the least, something the staff of the university – specifically the Athletic Dept – can point to when they are in meetings trying to figure out which direction to go… or where to have lunch.

Does it solve the “Same Old Pitt” (SOS) problem?  Maybe it will.  There has been a slow dissolving of that attitude among fans since the Narduzzi hire.  I do caution the younger Pitt fans that when discussing “SOS” a one year sample means almost nothing.  But keep the same momentum going in Narduzzi’s second year and we may be able put that attitude in our rear view mirror.

Although, and there is always a catch when addressing Pitt football, this phrase Pogo produced prose perfectly applies. (Alliteration!)

We have seen some solid changes within the Athletic Department since Barnes was hired. One has been the constant shuffle of and additions to his staff; every time we turn around he’s hired another person with a title that takes 30 seconds to figure out.

Here one of my favorites… Jason Griffin as “Assistant Director of Fan Engagement and New Media”  Huh? Still waiting for that phone call to the key bloggers Jason

In a Town Hall style meeting held two days before the Plan’s debut Barnes addresses the issue of staff and money to build the staff:

town-hall-jordan-mondell-web-599x900
“Seriously, WTF happened in Annapolis?”

Barnes said after the presentation that the numbers of new donors and gift-giving are up, but added that there hasn’t been a culture at Pitt for major gift fundraising in the past. The engagement rate out of 306,821 alumni was about 2.6 percent last year, close to half the average percentage for donor engagement.

Other efforts to increase revenue include amping up ticket sales. Barnes’ strategic plan includes an initiative to sell a record-breaking 53,775 season tickets for the upcoming football season.

The increased revenue will also go toward hiring more staff. The Athletics Department has made new hires in football, men’s soccer and softball, but is still lagging behind the average number of staff members at other ACC organizations by about 20.

Barnes laid out goals for focusing on fan engagement, expanding the revenue base, improving athletes’ graduation rates and re-allocating resources. So far, Barnes said the athletic department has failed to solicit sufficient donations from Pitt’s alumni.

All in all a good thing to do and if it is effective all the better.  It does show that Barnes is doing what he said he’d do when hired and that’s to drag Pitt athletics into the 21st century.

And to close out here is The Man stepping on the students necks again. This time it is hindering the student’s God-given right to party until the neighbors kill either themselves or a student…

Wednesday’s meeting in the small tan building at the corner of Semple and Louisa was to tackle the issue of the “unofficial night time economy”, made up of “disruptive alcohol fueled parties”, as Kappelman said. To help explore the topic, he brought in Allison Harnden, the City of Pittsburgh’s Nighttime Economy Coordinator.

The group’s main solutions were threefold. Incoming students should be taught how to coexist with the permanent residents. Private business should be encouraged to offer alternative entertainment to house parties. And police should work together with community members to ensure informed law enforcement.

Teaching the young and temporary residents isn’t just a job for the universities according to Kappelman. But they have a role, as do all the institutions influencing students treatment of their new home.

“The more coordinated the message is, the more it’s going to sink in,” Kappelman said. “If it’s someone at every university, every police zone, a number of different people from the city, etc…then maybe we can begin to shift the culture a little.”

Good luck with that.

Here is a sobering video that takes an in-depth look at James Conner’s cancer and his battle to defeat it…

Now that Fall camp is approaching we are starting to talk about returning players, new 2016 recruits and redshirted kids who are ready to see playing time.  This is the final two-deep going into the Navy game at the end of the 2015 season… use it for reference if you’d like.

Surprising that we are lost only three offensive players; WR Tyler Boyd, C Artie Rowell and TE J. P. Holtz – three out of 22 players on that unit’s two-deep is an excellent retention rate.  We did have one 2nd string player transfer (Voytik) and one 3rd string switch over to defense (Ziese).

Defense?  That’s a different story as we lose four starters in DL Darryl Render, DL KK Mosley-Smith, LB Nick Grigsby and DB Bobblehead Pitts.  All the Seniors on the defense were starters.  As far as the Special Teams goes all are back save the Long Snapper David Murphy.

2015 final two deep

For our newcomer readers:  My weekly format during the offseason is to try to get something up every day even if it a “Bits & Pieces” article like today.  At the least I get five articles a week up and if there is breaking news sometimes more than one in the same day – so keep checking back.

Or better yet click the front page button so that you get an email every time something new is posted on here.

On the weekends I do a audio podcast – I’m going to try to put them up on Sunday mornings and they are usually 30-45 minutes long.  Sometimes I read old articles and info about the history of Pitt football and its principal characters; sometimes i just do a stream of consciousness type of talk about anything football related that comes to mind.

Both these approaches were very well received on The Pitt Blather when I was there and so they are tried and true discussion starters.

Thanks for being here – Reed

31 thoughts on “Friday Bits & Pieces; June 24th

  1. Ha ha, Bobblehead Pitts. Definitely agree that if they want to get the actual pulse of the fans they need to engage the blogs and recognize they can extract valuable feedback from them. Now every social medium will have the element of “fringe lunatics” that do not express the collective view but you can really get a good general feeling of how a fan base feels rather quickly by reading through comments.

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  2. Ghost – agree. The blog writers know the best fans to ping out to to get that ‘pulse’. I personally know about 30+ readers who would be a great source of info and opinions on Pitt football, both young and old. Then again I also know a few who are just so positive or so negative that I’d pass on their opinions.

    Glad you liked the article.

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  3. Laughing my ass off at “bobble head” Pitts… He would’ve been a much better player if his head and neck did “bubble.”
    For the past 4–5 years, I have been a follower of the blather and now also have the Pitt POV to make a part of my daily readings covering our beloved Panthers. The reading is not only enjoyable but many of the posters on here are extremely knowledgeable regarding the game of football, the history and tradition of our great university and provide much in the way of information as well as entertainment. I hope the A.D. and the coaching staff take some time to occasionally check in and take the pulse this blog and the blather. As Reed has mentioned in the past there are thousands and thousands of hits on these blogs… The vast majority are true fans of the Pitt Panthers Care deeply about the university in the direction of the athletic program. They are the ones who support the program with their time and money.

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  4. So Mr. Barnes if you are reading: I really want to see them in some 1970s – 1983’s mustard and blue at some point during the season… Many, many of us do.!
    Read one technical note… Website is not keeping the name and email address and has to be entered every time I want to post… Don’t know if that is happening with the other ” POVers” … is that what we call ourselves now?

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  5. While the defense may well go through some growing pains, I expect this unit to be the strength of this team as the season progresses, led by the DL. In fact, the DE tandem of Price and Hendrix is what I look most forward to seeing.

    This may not go well with some readers here, but look for the old school combination of really good defense along with our stable of RBs running behind the experienced OL to bode well this season.

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  6. I gave the plan a quick look and will delve deeper later. First thing that resonated with me was a lack of a safety message for our athletes. One of the biggest issues confronting athletic departments is concussions. The cheer squad is more dangerous than football. Ladies soccer is next. Football follows. For Barnes, he needs to know that all other universities will pull this plan and dissect it, looking for cracks. He needs to visually show his support for athlete safety. That is something that helps recruiting. Something that Narduzzi can show the parents.

    With every strategic plan, there is usually a section that identifies barriers to achieving the goals. I didn’t see that, but again, it was a 10k foot flyover. Without identifying the risks, you set yourself up for not being able to achieve the rewards and it turns into an excuse 5 years from now when you can’t execute.

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  7. Wbb – why do you feel the defense will be that much better this year than last? We lost four starters and the only real talent behind those positions lost is very young.

    Our pass defense was not good at all and I don’t see big changes there. Our LB corp will be almost the same – perhaps Wirginis fleets up to take Grigsby’s spot but otherwise the LBs are kind of thin I think. Maybe Bam Bradley gets it together as a SR.

    Our DL wasn’t good last season and even though I also like Hendrix I don’t see the interior of the DL getting any better in ’16 – Soto might have to move into a starting job and he’s not shown much at all. All the others who have gotten small PT last season look average at best.

    I think we have to get some surprise production out of our rsFR and true FR if we want to see a jump in defense this season.

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    1. Because the DL will be MUCH improved plus the influx of defensive talent that we haven’t seen for a while, IMO. I believe the 4-star transfer, Hendrix will make a big impact who, along with Price, will make one of the best DE tandems in CFB. This can only help the OLBs, whomever they may be. THE DB lost just one, and there is experienced depth in the other positions.

      I’m a big believer that really good line play (both defense and especially offense) can make up for a lot of ills.

      BTW, my message process is working just fine .. just like it did on Blather

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      1. We will need much better play from our DT’s for our defense to really outperform last years group. Not sure moving Soto to tackle is going to make that much difference. Now there is always the chance that another Aaron Donald shows up in our freshman class and steals the show. But that might be asking too much at this stage of the game.

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  8. At work I am using Google chrome and when I comment the name and email is already auto-filled. Haven’t tried on my mobile devices…the POV has only decreased my work productivity…for now.

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  9. I think it’s a good step moving forward. Acknowledging that lot’s needs to be done. Will remain to be seen, but I like it. As for bloggers and posters, I say this carelessing about myself. Yes, they should be looking over them. As someone said above, there will always be some crackpots spouting off, that’s ok, you cruise by them knowing that they’ll be anywhere and will always be there. The core group has had a lot of good ideas, some that have been implemented. I’m not saying they run the joint, but to not be following what your fans have to say would be gross negligence.

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  10. Here is why moving Soto to DT will make a difference:

    He’s a tweener. He’s just a tad too slow and not quite athletic enough to be an effective D-I end. And he’s a little small to make a prototypical defensive tackle. But he’s probably quick enough to get penetration against most guards and centers. He may not be great at holding the point of attack but if he can be disruptive on 50% of his snaps that’s an improvement over last year.

    I’m also holding out hope that Taleni devlops into a diamond in the rough. Reed I know you are silently rooting for this too.

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  11. Watts, Camp, Wheeler. One or more of these true freshmen guys has to show up as a PLAYER in the two deep of the interior DL this season. That is simply essential to improve the DL play this year since there is just no depth there. If injury occurs with a starter on the interior line, things get ugly quick.
    On the flip side of that, any of the names dropped above could provide a pleasant surprise if they are as good as advertised and show up at camp ready to prove themselves ready to contribute immediately.

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  12. As far as the Rooney’s involvement in the process of improving Pitt’s game day experience, get them to agree to some decent graphics at midfield and in the end zones on Pitt game days as a starting point, P L E A S E!

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  13. Your dreaming if you think the Rooney’s give a rats ass about Pitt. This is a billion dollar family that asked for public donations to erect a statue of their father.

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  14. Dr. Tom i am with you on mid-field and endzones but am out of rants until the opener. If Barnes hasn’t figured out how cheap the Rooneys are and how dedicated they are to Penn State he is will need space travel to ‘get above the noise’. The “Fan Committee” is a joke of fat cats and insiders – all yes men. Damn I am going Lewis Black again.
    Moving Soto inside was a must – way too slow for a D-1 end. OL and DLs take time to develop. H2P

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  15. Also Reed I am with you 1000% on between play music blaring. I am not a mindless simpleton that needs constant stimulus. Alright I maybe a mindless simpleton but I don’t need constant attack on my senses. I enjoy discussing the game with those around me which is dang near impossible with between play music.

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  16. Great read, Reed.

    I’ve been off the grid for awhile and missed the launch of the PPOV! Holy smokes! Amazing!

    Loved the Blather… Still do… But really love this format. It’s fantastic!

    Looking at the comments, it seems like you brought all the boys along too!

    Well done.

    H2P!

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  17. I read that thing about the ‘sponsors’ a few times and still can’t figure out what Barnes means by that. I think you all are correct that Heinz and the Rooneys look at us as renters and not much more.

    Marble Hill – Yeah, I’ve held out a lot of hope for Taleni to progress. He’s a rsJR now so it’s “go-time’ for him. I used to watch HS football in Hawai’i every chance I had when I was stationed there and it is a very high level of competition. He is a quick first step so maybe we’ll get a decent rotation on the interior there.

    g803 – It is really nice for me to see all our reader/commenter friends come over here to talk about Pitt football also. It has gone gangbusters so far (I’m kind of surprised at just how many people took a look over the first 48 hours) and I’ll try to get something up every day if I have time.

    Although I’ve also gotten some pretty good insults about doing this also – but that’s fine also.

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  18. Defense needs to play better, These offensive coordinators we are going to face in the beginning of the year are going to be checking the Navy tapes. Defense was out of position( especially the LB’s) or completely fooled by counter plays in that game.
    Also I hate the music between plays also. I sit in the corner of the end zone by the big screen where the speakers are..irritating.

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  19. It will take Narduzzi two more years to have the D playing like his Michigan State teams. The talent just isn’t there yet and what is there is too young.
    DL and LB are just huge weaknesses.

    It does start with the line play. Hope some young guys step up.

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