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A Look At Pitt Football Attendance

Will Todd Graham's aerial assault draw raucous crowds like this in 2011? (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Will Todd Graham's aerial assault draw raucous crowds like this in 2011? (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Last weekend I made a trip back to Pitt .  While on campus, I noticed several banners hanging around the Pete, advertising student season tickets.  Same as my first two years, for $25 any undergraduate can get tickets to all eight homes in 2011, and a free t-shirt.  Great deal, but nothing new to see here.  What will be new to see is Todd Graham's high-octane, explosive offense and how that affects crowds at Heinz Field come this fall.

Despite a season that felt more like a death march than anything, Pitt didn't fare too poorly at the turnstiles in 2010.  The Panthers average home attendance last year was 52,165, placing them second among the Big East's eight teams behind only West Virginia.  During their successful Big East championship season 9-3 camapaign a year earlier, average attendance was a bit higher at 53,446.  For a stadium with a capacity of about 65,000, these numbers are nothing to be ashamed of.  Certainly not on the level of major BCS programs, but not nearly as abysmal as rival fans...ahem, WVU and Penn State who perpetually toss around this fine image...wish to believe.  An off-campus stadium unquestionably puts a damper on the game day atmosphere and makes it more of a pain for students to get there, but I have a hard time attributing anything more than an incremental decrease to the off-campus location.  Fans who are serious about the football team will go to the game, whether the stadium is in Oakland or two miles from campus.  Really, the only way to draw consistent crowds and build a robust fanbase is to win.  

One of the tacit reasons for Dave Wannstedt's dismissal was slumping attendance and concerns over future ticket sales.  Enter Graham, with his high-powered offenses and blitz-happy defenses, designed to thrill crowds and impel folks from their seats.  The prepared remarks aside, I believe the primary reason for Graham's selection was to inject energy into a bored fanbase, plain and simple.  And I do believe he'll do that.  The question is to what degree.

I haven't seen any updates on season ticket sales recently, but I'm confident they are ahead of where they were last year at this point.  With such an explosive system being implemented, after years of staid, pro-style offenses Pitt fans should be bubbling with excitement to check out this team.  I know I am.  An attractive home schedule with visits by Notre Dame and Utah should pump up attendance figures as well (in fact, these will both likely be sellouts).  I can't see the future, so I don't know what Pitt's attendance numbers will be in 2011.  What I do know is that it ought to be much better and much more exciting than in the past.  If Graham wins fast, it might even be -- dare I say it -- high-octane.