Pitt's average home attendance in 2012 was 41,494, a ten precent decrease from 2011 and significantly below Heinz Field's capacity of 60,050, according to a comparison done by AL.com.
Only 13 BCS schools reported lower attendance. Seven of those 13 are currently in the Big East or ACC. Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama and Texas all reported an average of over 100,000.
Losing to Youngstown State week one is an easy answer to Pitt's dreadful 2012 numbers, but my guess is that damage was reasonably blunted by an unexpected win over Virginia Tech. No, the cause of Pitt's double-digit attendance drop should be attributed another six win season and a disastrous offseason, the second one in as many years.
Excuses aside, there is absolutely no reason for Pitt to be behind programs like Purdue, Indiana and South Florida. I've said it before and I'll say it again - Pitt's attendance problem comes down to one thing: winning. Pitt averaged 53,446 in 2009, a year the Panthers rose to ninth in the country and went 9-1 before falling to West Virginia and Cincinnati. 53,000 isn't fantastic by any stretch, but it sure as hell isn't 41,000.
If nothing else, this report will likely give more ammo to those who still blame Steve Pederson for tearing down Pitt Stadium. An on-campus stadium might get a few more students in the stands, but that would surely be negated by a drop in fans discouraged by Oakland's lack of tailgating space, few bars and traffic congestion. There just isn't room in Oakland for a stadium with the amenities currently enjoyed by fans in Heinz Field. It may not be perfect, but it's what Pitt has, and it's a better situation than any other current college program using shared NFL facilities.
Heinz Field is not the problem. Going 20-18 with six head coaches in three seasons is.