Pitt may have to move the kickoff for its Sept. 16 home football game against Michigan State from 3:30 p.m. to noon because of poor planning by the athletic department. If that happens, and at this point it is a definite possibility, it likely would cost the school thousands of dollars in television revenue and penalties as well as from the dropoff in ticket sales generally associated with earlier kickoffs at Heinz Field.
The sticking point is a lack of available parking spots because the Pirates play host to the New York Mets at 7:05 that night and, by contract, are guaranteed to have a large number of the parking spaces in the lots between the two stadiums available to their customers at least two hours before the first pitch. That means many of the parking lots that Pitt sells pre-paid parking passes for will be locked when Pitt fans arrive for the football game earlier that day.
In the past, the Pirates have moved their games in order to accommodate scheduling conflicts with the Panthers. But the Pirates aren't budging this time because 1. It is Jack Wilson Bobblehead Doll Night. 2. They expect a crowd in excess of 30,000 fans that night. 3. The conflict is Pitt's fault.
"We have had a very successful relationship with Heinz Field and the Steelers with regards to working out scheduling conflicts in the past," said Patty Paytas, the Pirates' vice president of communications. "But we can't move the game at this late date because we have a big promotion and big pre-sale for that night. Pitt has known about our game time since last September, but we [Stadium Exhibition Authority, Pirates, Steelers, Heinz Field] are all still waiting to hear from Pitt about what their plans are to resolve this issue."
The conflict arose because Pitt officials did not inform the Pirates that they were scheduling a 3:30 p.m. game that day and, as Paytas said, did so with the knowledge that the Pirates had a game at 7:05 p.m. In fact, the Pirates did not find out about kickoff time for the Michigan State game until they read about it in the newspaper.
Keith Molin, Pitt's interim senior associate athletic director, is confident a solution can be found, but he admits the absence of one for now. He said moving the kickoff time is one option, but because the game is scheduled to be an ABC regional telecast, that can't be done easily.
"The problem we have with moving the game is we're not just dealing with Michigan State," Molin said. "We have ABC to worry about and also the Big Ten, the Big East -- there are so many people involved with it. I know that, given our relationship with everyone involved, we will be able to sit down and work something out that makes sense for everyone. What that solution is, I can't honestly tell you."
If Pitt has to move the game and can't work out an amicable agreement, it would have to pay fees and penalties as well as reach some financial agreement with Michigan State and the Big Ten.
The defense dominated most of the 60-play scrimmage yesterday. Coach Dave Wannstedt was pleased with the Panthers' overall effort and especially pleased with the defense's intensity. "It is a good sign that the defense is a little ahead of the offense," he said, "because that is the sign of a good team." ... Wannstedt said coaches will revise the depth chart after looking at film of the scrimmage. He expects a number of changes and perhaps a few position switches. ... Defensive tackles Gus Mustakas, Rashaad Duncan and John Malecki stood out, as did reserve weakside linebacker Tommie Campbell. "We've got to look at that weakside linebacker because Tommie Campbell has shown up a bunch," Wannstedt said. ... Both kickers vying for the starting job -- Conor Lee and Dan Hutchins -- struggled again (Lee 1 for 4; Hutchins 1 for 2) which has Wannstedt concerned. ... Fullback Conredge Collins (hamstring) and tackle Jason Pinkston (mild concussion) sat out practice. Wannstedt said he expects freshman receiver Dorin Dickerson (ankle) and defensive lineman Mick Williams (migraine headaches) to return to practice today.
Paul Zeise can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1720.