Somewhere, John Marinatto has this screenplay locked away in a desk drawer. It ends with perennial doormat Duke beating Miami, Virginia Tech and Pitt for an ACC division championship as Boston College and Syracuse play schedule fodder for Florida State's second coming.
It's real now, which should be thought provoking for a lot of people.
Many still feel the warm-and-fuzzies about Pitt's move to the ACC and for good reason. The money is better, the schedule is more compelling, the stability is comforting, etc. All of that is obvious. The optimist could even hold up Duke's surge as a source of promise for a Panthers program that is theoretically positioned better than the Blue Devils in the long run.
The reality, though, is that Pitt needs this division to get improve -- a lot -- to maximize the potential of its conference switch.
People didn't gobble up those season ticket packages over the summer to watch the same soul-crushing mediocrity Pitt faced in the Big East. They wanted the electric atmospheres the Florida State and Notre Dame games generated. They wanted the catharsis of 2002, when Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College got the city buzzing so much that even a young Nitter remembers it fondly. They wanted to see that even as Pitt builds toward winning on the big stage, it'll at least get to play there fairly often and maybe even pull an upset or two.
Instead, they got Virginia failing to score so much as a touchdown. They got a 4-5 North Carolina squad. They got the Hurricanes' rotting carcass. They got a Virginia Tech that once again found a way to underachieve. In short, the Coastal was a disappointment with those former Big East rivals largely responsible.
Of course, there's hope. Florida State and Clemson both proved this season that ACC programs can be real contenders on a national stage. The Tar Heels surged toward the end, Duke has the makings of a regular foe no one saw coming and...well it's basketball season!
But right now, it's just hope. So as we enter Pitt's first offseason in its new home, keep an eye on the Coastal teams. Hope they improve. Because even if that makes Pitt's road to the top tougher, it'll make things more exciting and rewarding when the Panthers actually get there.