Sure Pitt fans have had their share of misery. But Illinois? Really?(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
I don't always think of how Pitt is perceived by those outside of the area. When they're making a move in the polls? Sure. But, I mean, how is Pitt perceived by fans, not the media, on a national level?
As an SB Nation blog, I got a glimpse of just that. And, well, it ain't real pretty.
If you've been to other SBN college sites recently, you may notice a little project going on. Bloggers are participating in a conference redraft. Personally, I hadn't mentioned it on this site because it started while I was away on vacation and was well underway by the time I got back.
In case you're late to this party, the conference redraft is exactly that. Six commissioners were selected and, with the help of others, have been drafting teams. You may wonder why exactly I'm bringing this up now. Well, it's because Pitt was just selected ... in the 7th round and No. 41 overall.
Ouch.Look, I'm not one of those fans with blue and gold glasses on. I'm well aware that Pitt has underachieved on the football field and in the NCAA tournament. But a pretty good case could be made for the Panthers to be selected higher.
For starters, the school has had, in recent memory, a season where the football and basketball teams both finished in the top 15. Not too many accomplish that feat.
The basketball program is one of the best in the country. Pitt is perennially a top ten team and while underachieving in the NCAA Tournament has to be taken into consideration, the Panthers have, in a very short time, built one of the winningest programs in the past decade. The team plays in front of constant sellout crowds, has a nationally-known fanbase in the Oakland Zoo, and has world-class facilities.
The football team hasn't exactly met expectations, but has 27 wins in the past three seasons. Averaging nine per year over that span ain't all that bad, folks. The program is also rich in tradition, has produced National Champions, College and Pro Hall of Famers, gaggles of NFL Draft Picks, and also plays in world-class facilities. The team trains alongside the Pittsburgh Steelers and despite playing in a city with three pro teams, still drew the second most fans per game in the Big East last year.
The baseball program is much improved, having been close to NCAA Tournament bids the past two years and the brand new Petersen Sports Complex is a state-of-the-art facility to enhance the baseball, soccer, and tennis programs. The women's basketball team was also to a Sweet 16 a few years back and despite last year's setback, Agnes Berenato has the program leaps and bounds above what it was before she arrived.
It also doesn't end with just athletics, though.
UPMC is one of the premier medical institutions in the world and Pitt has high-ranking medical and business programs, among others.
Want another reason Pitt should be taken more seriously? The city has been ranked as the U.S.' most livable by Forbes and other publications. Several areas have unbelievable housing bargains and several of the top school districts in the state are found in the Burgh. Plus the aforementioned three pro teams make it a great place to live. Grads don't have to leave - there's plenty right here that make it a great place to stay.
The biggest slap in the face may be due to the teams taken ahead of your Panthers. Washington, Clemson, and Illinois for crying out loud? Wow. No offense meant to those schools as they're all fine institutions, but come on. I find it hard to believe that if looking at the two major sports (as programs, not as one-year scenarios such as the Illinois basketball team that got to the Championship game a few years back), football and basketball, any can really hold a candle to Pitt. Lacrosse? Well, I guess you got me there.
Another point of contention I've got with this whole program was that it seems the Director's Cup standings were taken, well, seriously. Okay, if the goal is to assemble schools that excel in non-revenue producing sports, then sure, Pitt should be taken late. The Panthers' Director Cup standings aren't all that great - sorry we haven't gotten that whole women's rowing thing down. But really. If we're talking about revenue-producing sports and Pitt's standings in them as well as things like location and education, I think the Panthers got a bit of a raw deal.
But then again, that's nothing new.