Dear AD Heather Lyke,
I attended your Pitt “Panthers on the Prowl” event hosted by the Pitt Alumni Association Friday evening in Washington, DC. First off let me thank you for doing this as I believe most attendees enjoyed their time there. Please try to make it an annual event if possible.
Personally I feel you missed a great opportunity to engage fans and alumni in meaningful discussion regarding Pitt athletics and the status of the athletic department, as well as the three major sports (football, basketball and women’s volleyball) represented at the event. The fact that Pitt ranks almost dead last in the ACC’s alumni donations to athletics should have led you to truly engaging potential donors instead of rolling out a dog and pony show.
You allotted two hours for the duration of the event, however anything meaningful at all could have been done with an egg timer given how sparse anything of substance was. I get it – some fans want to have their picture taken with their college head coach. The personal reasoning behind that eludes me but clearly that was the apparently the main thrust of this event.
By my watch your question and answer segment – which I believe would have been the most valuable part of the evening had it actually been sincere – lasted only 15 minutes. The shortness of it was too bad really – had you chose to take questions from the attendees we would have been able to ask about the status of issues you yourself have been advertising like crazy.
For instance I would have asked about the exciting “Victory Heights” initiative rather than having the evening’s Emcee ask the HCs the insipid question of “How do your players ‘stay hungry‘ over the offseason?” Please spare us the coach talk. The Q & As were so ridiculous that we would have gotten better answers had we consulted a Magic 8 Ball. I’d like to know how the “Fan Committee” had any real input into making Pitt athletics more palatable to the average fan… and your Magic 8 Ball would have replied “Reply hazy, try again.”
Instead we had the emcee actually preface a question to the basketball HC, Jeff Capel, with this bon mot – “Coach, you had an incredible season in 2018!” At that point I slid off my chair, went into the fetal position and covered my ears. Not to be too picky but an in-conference .167 winning percent isn’t anywhere close to ‘incredible’. Maybe next time say something like “Coach, congratulations, your first year showed real marked improvement over the 2017 season…” which would have been very true.
An especially nice touch was when you introduced a member of the Pitt’s Board of Trustees in the audience and got back an ‘impromptu’ shout out where he commenced to slobber over the athletic department by emphatically stating ‘The Board is 100% behind your efforts‘ among other things. That and your own “We won’t be changing the athletic teams new colors!!” were two eyebrow raising bits of info. How I wish I could have seen the pupils of your guys’ eyes when that happened. Not sure those statements are actually true. I hope the BoT guy was at least a Pitt alumni and not one of the Penn State grads we have on the board.
This is Pitt’s Old Gold…
This color is found nowhere in the university’s colors…
So, after the 60+ minute photo shoots we got about 15 minutes where instead of taking questions directly from those Pitt fans who actually paid good money (and who most tagged on an additional donation when registering) to be there we had a public love fest between the emcee, yourself and our three HCs in which nary a serious question was asked or answered or any important issue discussed.
Silly me – I would have thought that in light of the last two non-winning selasons the two cash cow sports, football and basketball, just had it would have been nice to press the HCs to answer serious questions such as “Coach Narduzzi, given your last two seasons what problems did you identify and what serious changes have you made to getting back to a winning program?”
I really wanted to ask what Coach Narduzzi’s Pat signal was all about last week. But that’s fine because one of the staffers who sat down next to me schooled me by saying “It would be nice to be able to take back tweets back sometimes”. That’s OK coach – I’m sure the kid won’t be as happy at the school he’s actually going to then he would have been at Pitt.
The only real bit of info passed all evening was that the women’s volleyball team has five All-Americans on the roster – which is fantastic! Perhaps Pat Narduzzi can get someone on his roster that he recruited out of high school to be at least 2nd string All-ACC. Get those two head coaches in a locked room and make our FB listen to how a sports team garners success via recruiting please.
Wait! And that the women’s volleyball Final Four will be in Pittsburgh this coming season. Thanks for that bit of info. How do I buy season volleyball tickets? That may be worth more than the football games are given the nine hour round trip drive.
I also feel that telling all in attendance about the fact that seven (7!) Pitt athletic teams had their highest APRs ever would have been a great touch. Look, the average age at this event was on the plus side of 50 years old – believe it or not that age group really does care about things like student/athletes and their academics and are at the height of their earning power – we missed a great opportunity for future donations there I think. Congrats to Pitt, especially Pat Narduzzi, for that achievement! Can’t fault him with his off the field stuff as he’s been and done what a HC should do in that arena.
I saw the table with the new Pitt gear for sale. Where was the table to sell season tickets and/or make additional donations to the athletic department? Wasn’t that really very important to set up? Well, we’ll get another chance in 2023.
Please let me know when the next “AD for a Day” contest is to be held – I’ll be sure to enter as we POVers have some fantastic ideas.
I suppose the long video about our University you played to end the event was nice – well, at least it gave you a nice excuse to close the Q&A session so quickly since as you actually said out loud “…because the head coaches need to catch their flights“. Seriously – how in the world could you publically state that the HCs’ leaving the event was more important than the alumni’s being there in the first place?
Other than that – thanks for a great time! And Happy Mothers Day!
Best to you and yours,
A kind-of satisfied alum and fan.
P/S: Please read this article before you do that feasibility study for an on-campus stadium. Maybe Heinz has added financial benefits that the average fan isn’t privy to.
Late addition: One important thing I have to add to the article is that Chancellor Gallagher hadn’t been showing much interest in athletics, uniforms, etc…but when Lyke showed him the first draft of the Panther logo he didn’t like it much so he suggested changes that were incorporated to the final product such as longer face and other stuff.