Pitt's entrance into ACC finally official


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NEW YORK -- Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson compared it to building a new athletic facility.

You can recruit players, attract fans and sell tickets with drawings and plans, but it doesn't become real until you walk around the building, see the equipment and experience it firsthand.

Pitt walked into its new athletic home for the first time Monday when it officially joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. The move was announced in September 2011, but it took more than 22 months until Pitt actually could call itself an ACC school.

"We've been recruiting to the ACC, we've been talking about the ACC, we've been talking about playing in the ACC, now, all of a sudden, we're an ACC school," Pederson said Monday. "We're in it. Our student-athletes are now ACC student-athletes. Kids we're recruiting are ACC recruits. I think the reality of that will immediately have a tremendous impact on what's happening for us and we couldn't be more excited about it."

Syracuse and Notre Dame joined the ACC along with Pitt, and the league celebrated with a ceremony at the NASDAQ Stock Market in Times Square. Pitt was represented by former All-American wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. He joined Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim, Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey, Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher, Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer, league commissioner John Swofford and all 15 ACC mascots in ringing the market's closing bell.

"An expansion is kind of like a marriage," Swofford said. "You work at it together, and we've got a group of schools that see the world in a similar fashion. When a group of individuals and a group of institutions are looking in the same direction collectively, in terms of what their goals and objectives are with their athletic programs and the kind of conference they want to have, that makes it a lot easier."

With the transition part of the process over, Pitt can look forward to its future as an ACC member, which means a stable conference and more than a tripling of television revenue.

Despite the increased funds, Pederson said Pitt will not significantly alter the way it conducts business. He said he didn't anticipate Pitt adding any new sports and instead focusing on making the university's 19 existing varsity sports "the very best they can be."

"We've been very prudent in how we spend money," Pederson said. "That's just our style and we're not going to outspend people. What we are going to try to do is give people the resources to be successful. That means trying to help in every way we can for our coaches to have the resources to compete with the people that they're to beat on a regular basis."

From a league-wide standpoint, Swofford said the next step was to "maximize the potential [the ACC] has" with 15 members. That likely includes moving forward with research and analysis for a potential ACC television network.

The league did make a statement Monday by having the ceremony in New York, rather than Greensboro, N.C., its traditional base of operations. The league has been discussing moving its men's basketball tournament to Madison Square Garden or Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, and Swofford emphasized maintaining a conference footprint all the way up and down the East Coast.

"We wanted to showcase the ACC in New York City, and we wanted to show that this was a very important part of the footprint in our new conference," Swofford said of having the event in Times Square.

Talk of conference tournaments and television networks can wait, though. Pederson was just happy that a move 22 months in the making had finally come to fruition.

"We've been at this for a couple of years now, in terms of the preparations and going into the conference," he said. "You're sitting in meetings, you're making decisions. Now, all of a sudden, it's real."

NOTES -- Pitt will retire former wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald's No. 1 jersey, making him the ninth former Panther to be so honored. ... Root Sports announced Monday that it had reached a deal to air more than 140 ACC games starting in the fall, including select Pitt football and basketball games.

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Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.


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