To make something clear: I think doing the script in the modern colors is a great compromise by the athletic department. It's coming halfway to those fans that wanted a complete change back in terms of color as well. And to be frank, it looks fantastic on the helmet. This should appease the majority of fans who wanted it changed back.
Having said that, I have only been a Pitt fan since 2008 when I came to school, so my experience to the famous "Pitt Script" was very limited. Pictures, old highlights, and the occasional fan wear at Heinz were where I were exposed to it. To me it was something the old fans pined for just because that's what they associated with Pitt's last football championship in 1976. Also, considering the fact that I was much more involved in Pitt basketball as a Pitt student, a program whose prominence has a much bigger identity in the block Pitt, it's easy to see how I didn't have a real appreciation for that curved Pitt goodness.
I did, however, feel Pitt should stop ignoring those that hoped to have it return in some form. A throwback game once a year, maybe? That would appease both young and old fans. Alternate uniforms to be flashy for the young whipper-snapper recruits, and a return to the old color guard for the older fans.
Other student leaders and I met with Steve Pederson last September to discuss this. I won't say exactly what was discussed, but I can say Pederson was positive and encouraging about the idea - but wanted it handled well. The reason I say this is to emphasize this idea of bringing back the script was formally brought up over a year ago at least.
So here, out of nowhere on Friday, Pitt brings the Script back. Friday afternoons are when you announce bad news, or insignificant but necessary news. This didn't fit the bill for a large sports university to announce it's changing its football image. If you take a step back, it really seems like this was not a long and planned decision as Pederson opined Friday. The idea of putting stickers on a helmet seems like a slap on (see what I did there?) fix for a long time tough subject among fans and the Pitt leadership.
The first clue is the announcement itself. The reintroduction of the script this past Friday, while widely celebrated, was extremely odd timing. Friday afternoon the day before a game, and with no formal notice from the athletic department aside from its twitter account. The athletic department issues press releases to let you know when Paul Chryst's next pregame press conference is, but not the return of a beloved logo that's been gone for almost two decades? Pitt did release something with some photos of the helmets with players, but that was it. This should have had a formal introduction early in the week.
It sounds dumb, but give people something to be excited about all week. People that were on the fence about going suddenly have another reason to go. "They're bringing back the script? I gotta see that." Say what you want about needing a new helmet sticker to attract fans, but that's the mindset of your casual college football/Pitt fan. Give fans time to buy themselves tickets to the game and make the plans to be there.
The second clue was the uniforms. The helmet has the update obviously, but the uniforms still had the block Pitt at the neck line. My understanding is this may be changed by the end of the year but definitely by next season. If this was a long and well discussed decision, how was this not fixed? Even if you had to order new uniforms that takes a year at most, but the neckline Pitt logo seems to just be a patch. At the very least you would hope this had been planned since the start of the season, but it's very odd that nothing could be fixed on the uniforms the two months prior to Saturday.
The third clue is that one of the main motivation for these types of changes is money. Money from things like merchandising. There is exactly zero new merchandise featuring the Pitt Script logo in the current colors, which is pretty inexcusable. I woke up Saturday realizing all my block Pitt apparel was now out of date for Saturday's football game, and would have certainly spent money on some new script apparel had it been available.
I know from talking to both current students and alums that they felt the same way. If it's short notice and you can't get Nike or Under Armour to print up some gear (understandable - those companies have ridiculous lead times), then use local vendors and sell it that way. To have absolutely nothing in either the team store or the Heinz stores is baffling. Why would you not have apparel to sell right off the bat? I know the team store recently introduced new block Pitt gear as well, so this was something thought about.
All of that, though, doesn't match the absurdity of the last misstep. The midfield block Pitt logo at Heinz was unchanged for the game. Something that's done the day of the game wasn't updated for the script announcement. It requires a cardboard cutout logo to paint with and some paint to update the logo. This takes so little effort, but is the symbol of the program for the world to see when they turn their TVs on. How was this not fixed? We'll forget that the size and look of the original block logo was cheap looking to begin with, but it's embarrassing that the only thing script on the field was the helmets.
Maybe I'm still just salty from the loss Saturday, but this whole reintroduction of the script has been very disappointing. It essentially boiled down to them sticking a different vinyl sticker on the helmets. Perhaps it's so frustrating because this isn't a small commuter college in the middle of nowhere. This is the University of Pittsburgh. The oldest school in the ACC with multiple college and pro Hall of Famers. The school with three players in the NFL who are top five in their positions. The college home of Tony Dorsett, one of the best of all time. Dan Marino. Ditka. Grimm. etc.
I could go on and on. I'm damn proud to be a Pitt grad, and revel any chance I get to represent my school. Why did this reintroduction of the script not have that feeling? Why did it seem so half-assed, and that it was just an afterthought? The introduction of the symbol of our football team should be handled much better. It's the identity of the program. It's what you show to fans, recruits, students, and the world. It's how Pitt shows itself on the biggest stage of college athletics that is football. It's the symbol that every Pitt football fan should say "Hail to Pitt!" to themselves whenever they see it. Why was it reduced to a sticker change and a few twitter photos?
I had a casual Pitt fan asking me why myself and others were getting so excited about a font change. That's something that the introduction of the logo should explain. Why was this done, and what's its effect on the program? This wasn't a one time alternate uniform or throwback. This was a permanent change. It wasn't even known this was a permanent change until Steve Pederson said so on 93.7 The Fan. That's not right. My reaction would be the same if the new font was in Comic Sans. This is not how you treat a logo change for your biggest sports program.
I worked with many people in the Pitt athletic department in my time at Pitt. They have some extremely intelligent and innovative people working for them, and I know things could be done better. This isn't meant to trash the Pitt Athletic Department, truly. It's a reminder that fans notice these things. We care deeply about this program and want it to be the best it can be both in form and function. The function is much harder and more complicated, so let's make sure to get the form right from the get go. You do it so fantastically with the LiveWire highlights, game updates on twitter, and the media you pump out. Pitt has one of the best social and video media teams in the NCAA (I truly believe that). Make that the standard for everything, especially things like changing of the logo. Your logo is your face, don't shy away from showing it off.