So we're back to this again?
Criticizing Pitt's spring game is kind of annual ritual for me. Back in 2012, I outlined some ideas for Pitt to give the game a much-needed boost. Last year, I bashed the pathetic effort yet again as Pitt failed to gain no momentum for the program out of the annual game.
Just when you thought the handling of the Blue-Gold game couldn't get any worse, it did.
ICYMI, Pitt announced they've decided they're not even going to bother hosting a game this year. That's right - while major programs all around the country are doing their best to get fans excited for the season (including, by the way, every ACC program), Paul Chryst and company are essentially taking their ball and going home.
The move, of course, is being made because there's been zero momentum built over the years - not for the outlandish reasons Chryst gave (yeah, I'll get to that in a minute). Pitt has never (in my lifetime, anyway) been able to gain any traction for the event despite other schools with far less football tradition doing just that.
Last year, in fact, football powerhouses Texas State and Duke reportedly even outdrew Pitt for spring game attendance. Instead of ranking up there with other traditional football schools, Pitt's spring game was much closer to schools like UTSA and South Alabama in terms of interest. Seriously.
So perhaps Pitt has a good reason for not hosting the game. Perhaps there's a really important reason for this that we're all just missing. Roll the footage:
Chryst said Thursday he believes finishing spring drills with a regular practice will be better for his team.
"The thinking behind that is to get one more good work day out of (the players)," he said. "Most, if not every, spring game you end up really sacrificing a lot.
"These days are really valuable for us."
Really? That's what we're going with? So Pitt is canceling a tradition that's gone on at Pitt since 1940 for one practice. Six months before the season begins?
But hey - just know that #ChrystCares about the fans, y'all:
Asked about fan reaction, he said, "You appreciate those people. That's a real thing, a good thing. That's certainly not the intention to (say fan support) doesn't matter.
"It's a little bit selfish when you are trying to do what is best for the program. You feel really good that is the right thing to do and you hope people appreciate that."
The right thing to do? Sorry, but you'll never convince me that one practice six months out when you don't even have the entire roster of players you're going to have matters all that much. Spring practice as a whole with several practices? Sure. But one practice? Please.
Look, I'm not here to convince you that the spring game is the most important thing ever - or even mildly important. What I am going to point out, though, is that realistically, this makes zero sense.
Who doesn't hold a spring game? No one in the ACC, that's for sure. The Panthers are the sole team in the conference that's decided they don't need the annual ritual.
Need further proof that the decision reeks of idiocy? According to the Trib article cited above, the only other FBS programs not hosting a spring game are Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. A&M is undergoing renovations and the Cowboys are having an open practice instead. Pitt? Crickets chirping.
Not only does the majority of college football hold the game, I mean, everybody holds the game. If such an advantage could be gained by having an extra practice instead, it stands to reason that successful football programs would take a pass. The very fact that no one else does what Chryst suggests is so vitally important really proves one thing - that either every other FBS coach is wrong or Chryst is wrong.
I'll let you decide.
Another thing that Chryst in his infinite wisdom likely gave zero thought to was the perception this will have on prospective recruits. While teams such as Penn State and Ohio State use the game as a way to make a big deal of their football programs, Pitt has decided to give the same opportunity the Heisman. How do you think that looks to potential recruits?
LIKE YOUR PROGRAM ISN'T A BIG DEAL.
The ugly part for me is that instead of trying to make the game better, the university has instead chosen to ditch it, virtually citing their own inability to put out a good product. How about this? Instead of throwing in the towel, why doesn't the school make improvements to give fans a reason to show up?
I've said it before, but Pitt's move to the ACC was one that was supposed to move them into the stage of big time athletics. If the football program is a big time one, then it's time to start acting like it.
Sorry, but if you insist fans take the program seriously, maybe the school should first.
The other huge faux pas here is that Pitt desperately needs to do something (anything, really) to sell an awful home schedule. Last year, they skated on the good fortune received by getting teams like Florida State, Notre Dame, and Miami at home. This year, it's more about selling Virginia Tech, Iowa, and Duke. Do you honestly thing that off of a third straight 6-6 year that's going to be an easy sell? Why on earth would you give up the chance to lure people into buying tickets, give away tickets, etc. when it's already an uphill climb.
Want another reason hosting the game is practically mandatory? TV exposure. Pitt's game last year is even still up on ESPN for viewing on ESPN3 for crying out loud. Why would you ever pass up the chance to get your program on 'TV', even if it is ESPN3?
I swear, someone is sitting around thinking of ways NOT to generate excitement for the program and then doing just that.
Pitt needs to do whatever they can to be on the offensive and push the product.. Offer a BOGO deal for fans that come to the game. Heck, GIVE tickets away. I don't particularly care. What I do care about is constantly funneling Benjamins into the athletics department in the way of donations and ticket purchases and being told that I've got to do my part. Do your part and stop shooting the program in the foot by ridiculous acts that clearly have no real purpose.
Pitt's athletics department does a lot of things right. But things like this and extinguishing Midnight Madness as they've done in the past have little logic attached. Apathy isn't a reason not to hold the game - it's a reason to make it better. It's not ahead of the curve and there's no competitive advantage to be gained by it. It's not hip or making a wise decision - it's just plain stupid.