Pitt to play host to Florida State in season opener
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It's hard to imagine a more high-profile Atlantic Coast Conference debut for Pitt.
The ACC released its full 2013 schedule Monday, and the Panthers' slate is highlighted by a season-opening prime-time game on Labor Day against defending conference champion Florida State at Heinz Field.
The game will be televised nationally on ESPN and will be the only Division I-A game that night.
"It provides a great opportunity because of the challenges," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. "We're excited and proud to be going into the ACC and what better way for us to do it than to play against the defending champions?"
Pitt's 2013 schedule
Sept. 2 (Mon.) -- Florida State, 8 p.m.
Sept. 14 -- New Mexico
Sept. 21 -- at Duke
Sept. 28 -- Virginia
Oct. 12 -- at Virginia Tech
Oct. 19 -- Old Dominion
Oct. 26 -- at Navy
Nov. 2 -- at Georgia Tech
Nov. 9 -- Notre Dame
Nov. 16 -- North Carolina
Nov. 23 -- at Syracuse
Nov. 29 (Fri.) -- Miami
Dec. 7 -- ACC championship game in Charlotte, N.C.
In addition to the Seminoles, Pitt will play host to Notre Dame and North Carolina on back-to-back weeks early in November, and close out the season the day after Thanksgiving with a game against former Big East Conference rival Miami.
Pitt's first ACC road trips will take them to Duke (Sept. 21), Virginia Tech (Oct. 12), Georgia Tech (Nov. 2) and Syracuse (Nov. 23). The Panthers also have a non-conference road game Oct. 26 at Navy.
"This is going to be the most dynamic schedule we've had in many, many years and probably one of the most dynamic schedules in all of college football," Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said.
When the ACC presented Pederson with the option of playing on Labor Day, he said both he and Chryst were "aggressively in favor" of getting that game on the schedule.
It took schedule maneuvering to come to fruition, though, as Pitt had a game against Villanova scheduled for Aug. 31.
The ACC office helped facilitate a solution where the Wildcats will replace Pitt with Boston College on their 2013 schedule, which allowed Pitt and Villanova to push their game back until at least 2016, Pederson said.
Then, also with the help of the ACC, Pitt was able to sign a contract with Old Dominion as a midseason replacement for Villanova. The Monarchs are in their final year of Division I-AA play before joining I-A next season.
Pederson said that Pitt did not have to buy out or break any existing scheduling contracts to make the schedule work.
"It wasn't that people weren't willing, it was just so many moves," he said. "Every time somebody did something, somebody else had to move. It was working through a lot of people to get it done."
Now, the Panthers have a date to circle as they prepare for their second season under Chryst. Knocking off the defending champion in a nationally televised game would certainly announce Pitt's arrival to the ACC.
"It's overwhelming how exciting it is right now," receiver Devin Street said. "When you're young, you look forward to teams like this. Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech, all these teams. To be in that position now for my senior year, it's really exciting."
The ACC released the schedule pairings, without dates, in January. In the 90 minutes after that release, Pitt sold 1,000 new season tickets. Pederson said Pitt has sold 4,000 new season ticket packages in total and also is receiving renewals from current season ticket holders.
If Pitt sells out the game against Florida State, as expected, it would be the Panthers' first Heinz Field sellout since the 2009 season finale against Cincinnati.
"Getting Heinz Field sold out will be very significant for us," Pederson said.
All kickoff times are still to be announced, except for the Florida State game, which will start at 8 p.m.
First Published February 26, 2013 12:00 am