I received a letter from an old friend who is, and has been for years, closely associated with both the Pitt administration and the athletic department – here are some of his views on Pitt football and its current position. These are very well informed thoughts and opinions and, I believe, right on the mark as it echoes conversations I have had in the past with my contacts about the future of Pitt football. Some of this is surely controversial but should make for good discussions.
“I’m really afraid that Pitt’s football program may run out of options in the next ten years if that. The administration with the strong support of Lyke wants football to succeed but there are issues that need to be addressed:
1. ACC money will grow during the next five years for sure but then what will happen as media contracts will coincide with dropping cable and satellite subscriptions; broadcast media has declined to less than half what it was 20 years ago; and streaming is the growth area.
2. Heinz Stadium is fine and saved Pitt football which couldn’t argue for Pitt Stadium renovations but that 30 year lease now requires making decisions for the future. Meanwhile even NFL attendance is declining as is college football attendance, so what decisions need to be made to renovate, reduce, and provide both sufficient parking and other amenities. Does anyone really expect Pitt to be a major player in those decisions? Does anyone really think the Steelers alone can force the Stadium Sports Authorities to pay more without the argument that Pitt also is dependent on Heinz Field? The Rooney Family does not own Heinz Field but are very influential.
3. Pitt’s salaries for head coach and assistants have risen to acceptable grade now as a Power 5 program. But the national powers such as PSU, Clemson, LSU, Alabama, Ohio State etc. are raising salaries at a prodigious rate. Pitt can’t and won’t ever exceed $4.5 million for a head coach.
Considering that Franklin was $5.6 million a year and now has a sizable increase to probably near $7.5 million a year in the new contract, Pitt cannot keep pace! What this means is that Pitt will never be competitive with top programs as the alumni and fan support is not there. It is more likely that another shakeup of conferences is on the horizon.
4. Pittsburgh and Western PA has changed forever! No longer a heavy manufacturing mecca, the area has seen increased hard times for the small towns and budgets. Football and other extracurricular activities are suffering so the backyard recruiting is diminishing along with the population. So with so many other programs raiding for those fewer and fewer top athletes, how does Pitt compete?
Pitt lost any local media attention by 1990 so Pitt is just perceived as another program but not a glamorous one. When local establishments won’t even consider showing a Pitt game, how can Pitt succeed? Pitt, its alumni, and whatever number of fans can’t seem to mobilize to pressure businesses to carry games or even to improve game attendance.
5. Where did Pitt error in the recent times? Pitt failed immensely in not recognizing the changing landscape of college football from 1986 through the conference expansions. Now Pitt is in a southern dominated conference that treats Pitt, Syracuse, and BC like waifs at the table. These three programs were probably added solely for their basketball additions to a powerful basketball conference. Hmmm, shades of the old Big East!
To date none of these three have been shown much respect or even acceptance by the ACC’s Carolinas-Florida axis.
Oh how Pitt might have benefited from getting into the Big10. Currently I would not be surprised if Pitt finds itself looking at membership in an AAC-MAC merged conference or simply dropping football within ten years. “
Have at it my friends…