Folks – I mailed a copy of this with a cover letter to Executive Associate Athletic Director, Media Relations; E. J. Borghetti this morning. As you can see it is extensive and , I hope, well written enough to make good sense. Even though the headline mentions football – the suggestions encompass all sports as you will read.
I will say that from my years-long personal experience Assistant AD Borghetti that he will read this promptly and take it for what it is intended – a show of support from all of us Pitt fans to him and the athletic department. This list was edited by me for clarity, etc.
The Pitt POV’s Readers Ideas For the 2021 Football Season
- Scheduling – we get our rivals back and it might be easier said for basketball though. Why can’t Pitt play UConn, Villanova, and Georgetown again in basketball and Navy (should be every year) and schools like Cincinnati, UCONN, and other old Big East teams?
- Can the students bring in banners or flags to the stadium? Maybe have them drop them off the night before, have security bring them up to the entrance the players come out of, then the students go onto field, unfurl, and wave them before kickoff. Then security would take flags back and store them. Think about how the premier league soccer does it.
- For boosting the alumni and fans, has the university ever recognized a game specific tailgate crew or fans and families? Put a spotlight on these groups and individuals each week at Heinz.
- Have fans share their stories just like fans have on here (The POV). Questions like; what made you a Pitt fan? Which were your most memorable games? What schools are your personal rivals. Who is your favorite all time players? What was your best road trip to an away game? Which fans come in from the farthest for the game etc.
- (Editor’s Note: I suggest you do a few of the above on the big scoreboard pre-game and during commercial breaks – might have to use a seven second delay or better yet record the bits as the fans cross the parking lot or at tailgates. But those TV timeouts are killers for keeping fans engaged and interested.)
- Drop by the POV tailgate one day. Take the temperature of the fans and tailgaters and ask them serious questions where their own point of view is received. You will get honest feedback about how true fans see things.
- Engage with fans, alumni etc. via directed email and social media. The POV has about 700 “followers” on email who signed up to a message every time a new article is posted. Pitt could build an email address base to pass out smaller bits along with big press releases – written towards fans and not the media. You have already built a great website for Pitt athletics but how many everyday fans go and into it, especially when football and basketball are not playing.
- Make specific daily (better weekly maybe) type of video and thousands of fans would receive word that you posted it. Send the link to interesting stuff you have done and get it right to who needs to be informed
- This way Pitt sports are in their face on a constant basis. Make the emails so they cannot reply!
- Also, many have talked about those football chalkboard discussions. Open some up so to get some real and genuine meet and greets where reasonable questions get an honest answer. This does not have to be the head coach, but some football or basketball assistant coaches and/or staff members could answer questions about play calling offensive and defensive strategies and preparations.
- In some spots the AD or one of the Assistant ADs could explain in-depth how things happened behind the department scenes, scheduling for instance… or anything which could open some eyes and get people thinking about the whole of the athletic department and not just the teams themselves. Pat Bostick would be great at this, describing on field scenarios, why specific plays were called and coaching decisions that worked, or even did not work, in detail.
- Not sure what pre-game day or same game day traditions there really are. But reevaluate your songs, chants, and activities to get more people energized and involved. More than just Neil Diamond please… please!!
- Have the students and the student/athletes personally interact more. Might be tough to do with football due to separate housing and cafeteria. Get athletes and students more involved in group community projects. It is far easier to attend matches and root for players when you know someone on the team. If these are already being done, then get the word out better. It is known that this already happens each normal year – this is where a dedicated fan email listing would be extremely helpful in getting the word of their good works out. Maybe a way to wrap fans into this for word-of-mouth advertising.
- One POV reader wrote: “When I studied at the University of Richmond, defensive back Mike London was a dormitory hallmate, along with a few other football players. When you live near them, they become fellow students with you, and you see firsthand how much work they have on their plates. It makes you want to go to watch and support them.” Surely if you talk to alumni who were at Pitt before the players and students were in separated living, they will have stories like this of their own.
- How about the idea of a ‘Panthers Rewards Card’ to bribe the students to attend games? Once they earn enough attendance points, they can spend it on Pitt stuff at the University Store or the PITT Store. Once students attend an Olympic sport game, they could become hooked and tell others about the fun they had. That will give them a discount and sell more Pitt stuff. Once students see other students using their rewards cards word will spread.
- Along those lines Create and pass out T-shirts to first time student attendees at our Olympic and minor sports matches captioned with something like “I finally went to a Pitt wrestling match and loved it!” They wear it around campus, and you get good advertising for about a couple of bucks a shirt.
- Name a formal “Fan of the Game” at the home games. Get the cheerleaders to give him or her a Pitt gear gift bag, put them up on the Jumbotron and then ask a few questions on why they think “Pitt is It!” It can be hilarious and focused acknowledgement on them being a great Pitt fan.
- To get seats in the student section for basketball at the University of Virginia students must attend other school sporting events, excluding football games. The athletic department then gives points for that and one needs to hit a certain point level to get into the student section. That might be tough with the Oakland Zoo being so popular… and now a business of its own.
- At each home game have a drawing for a random student, who has remained until the fourth quarter, to have a semester’s tuition waived. Not only might this attract more students but have them stay past halftime. Might have to have late busses from Heinz Field to the campus for this.
- To drum up fan support (and hopefully donations) Pitt should work with a hotel in Oakland and a hotel in Downtown to reserve a block of rooms and host mixers in the ballrooms etc. Get preferred pricing and develop packages with transportation local and national.
- Tie in tours of the campus and other entertainment. Market this to Pitt Clubs and other individual alumni and groups. If it is fun and affordable, people will come year after year. How many groups are out there that would love to see old friends? Phi Epsilon Pi, a defunct fraternity had a reunion a few years back, they did it on their own. If Pitt would market and support these types of events they would happen more often. Do this for the closer away games also. Could these be done at a reasonable cost to the attendees?
- Possibly reach out to local/state business who employ a good number of Pitt alumni and fans and draw them into attending the above annual events.
- Ohio State used to have Archie Griffin speak last at graduation imploring the grads to join the alumni association and to support Pitt athletics…but mainly the Alumni Association. We have many football stars that have played at Pitt who may consider it an honor to be asked. Using a captive audience seems a great way to lead students to remain involved with the alma mater.
- Bring a feeling and practice of real sportsmanship back to Heinz and Pitt fans. As it is if one acknowledges a great play by an opponent, he gets screamed at by other Pitt fans. Perhaps a small pregame video about civility/sportsmanship would be a constant reminder and have them stress that “Just like Pitt fans want to have a great time and cheer on the Panthers when we travel to other school to play ball We welcome (name team) fans at Heinz today to have the same thing. Whatever happens on the field today let us all win the day with civility and respect! Thank you and Let’s Go PITT!!” I bet some of the less publicly know kids on the team’s roster would love to tape something like this – and all the other PSAs mentioned here.
- Maybe a football alumnus in a Public Service type video could say something like “I much as I wanted to beat the Hell out of Notre Dame every time, we played I still loved reading and learning about their long football tradition. When we played our away games at their stadium we were playing in “The House that Rock Built” that had some of college football’s biggest stars since 1930.” Every opponent has something of interest to tie into
- How about a 60 second video about Pitt’s football or basketball history with the opponent? Something to acknowledge our football past with other school – Notre Dame, Penn State, Navy, WVU, etc. but also all opponents.
- Since the stadium is a public facility and Pitt plays there too, how about a Hall of Honor for past Pitt greats too like the Steelers have! Maybe we could erect a statue or two of past Pitt Greats outside near the gates. We do have a Panther statue outside, but we should have more. Perhaps a better, less costly idea would be to have replicas of Pitt’s College Hall of Fame players’ bronze plaques set near the gates of Heinz – there are always walkers and joggers using that area plus Steeler fans waiting to go in will see them. If any Pitt players do not want to do it or want a big paycheck then develop plaques that are targeting points in our grand football tradition. Plus, these are easy to remove to a new stadium or such.