Earlier today, the ACC released several game times for conference teams. Among the news, it was learned Pitt and Villanova will kick off at 1:30 p.m. on September 3rd and will be on ESPN3. Virginia Tech and the Panthers will be a 7:00 p.m. game on Thursday night, October 27th on ESPN.
The major news, however, was that Pitt and Penn State would kick off at noon on September 10th.
If you follow the Pirates' schedule, you'd know that a noon game was highly likely here. The Bucs have a night home game on that day and that really limited Pitt's options. Even a 3:30 p.m. kickoff seemed unlikely since it would allow for people to clear out of lots in time for the Pirates game and would make that entire area even more congested with Pitt fans leaving around the time Pirates fans would be arriving. Things didn't have to be this way, of course.
Major League Baseball works with all teams on developing the schedule each season. Now, they handle the actual schedule-making with the help of consultants, but they also work with teams individually to get preferences on days to avoid, conflicts, etc. And here's the thing - the Pirates had plenty of time to prepare for this since the date was known, you know - nearly four years ago. The game date was announced by Pitt way back on December 7th, 2012, surely allowing things to be cleared. Plus, according to this article from MLB.com, the entity works very hard to meet schedule requests, etc. Surely if the Pirates slipped them that date as sort of a heads up even two years ago, a train wreck like this could have/should have been avoidable.
Despite a home night game being scheduled for that date, the Pirates had another chance to make amends here - they could have worked out a deal with Pitt to switch times. They could have requested an earlier game time and given Pitt priority to play at night since it's an infinitely bigger deal, will be a bigger draw, and by far, the more popular event that day. While this sounds confusing and even difficult, it also happens on a somewhat regular basis in sports. For one thing, the Pirates have changed plenty of games to accommodate national telecasts and they did that last season in switching four game times. Last July, they changed times with the Steelers with only about a month's notice. Earlier this year, the Pens did the Pirates a solid and changed times after the Bucs asked for a change.
This is not some great irregularity - it's something the Pirates have done on several occasions to help others while also benefiting themselves.
So, changing a time is, on the surface, possible. And considering that the only thing standing in the way is a regular season game (one of 162, by the way), it seems relatively minor. So, would the Pirates consider such a change? To the footage, boys and girls:
In the event that the type is too small for your eyes, the Pirates basically said that they didn't ask MLB to reschedule the game to make a later start time reasonable. That, in and of, itself sounds bad. But the worst part is the rest of the response. Not that the Pirates will still try to help out here, but that you, as a Pitt fan, should instead support the Pirates during their own Pitt alumni night the night before the game.
That statement, too, throws the notion that the Pirates weren't aware of the big Pitt game completely out the window. By scheduling alumni nights of Pitt and Penn State the day before, let's just say it seems reasonable to think they were playing off of the football game.
As a Pirates fan, I was pretty disappointed in the response. It likely didn't mean to sound in this manner, but it came off very much as 'go kick rocks' while also trying to drive traffic to their own event. This sort of logic made little sense, particularly since it's still only a regular-season game for the Pirates. And while it could be an important one in the grand scheme of a playoff race, it still doesn't justify being a bad neighbor (especially since the Pirates have fans that are also Pitt fans). Constant requests to avoid these sorts of things aren't reasonable, but keep in mind that this isn't Pitt-Youngstown State or Pitt-Akron here, after all. Pitt-Penn State will be the biggest college game played around here since Pitt-Cincinnati last decade and is a huge game that much of the state has an interest in. If the Pirates have some grand illusion that a single Major League Baseball game is a bigger deal than a major college football rivalry game that hasn't been played in 15 years, they have a greater feeling of self-importance than they should.
All of that said, we don't know the Pitt stance on this. We don't know if, for example, they preferred a noon game or if they approached the Pirates about this at all. For that reason, some judgment has to be reserved for another time (although, if that were truly the case, wouldn't it have made sense for the Pirates' statement to reflect that?).
Further, if the game were later, would Pitt and Penn State have still been on ESPN or ACC in prime time? Jerry DiPaola of the Trib actually made that point (which I find reasonable) while defending a noon time (we can agree to disagree there). I don't know and, ultimately, that's huge. There are a few variables that make it uncomfortable to heap all of this at the feet of the Pirates for now, but if nothing else, that statement annoyed a lot of folks. And here's the thing - if either of those two scenarios were true and the Pirates weren't trying to be a bad neighbor, the statement could have very easily reflected that by saying something to the effect of 'We will work with the Panthers on this conflict' or 'The Panthers have expressed no interest in changing times, etc.' Very simple to do and it would have absolved them of all blame.
So where are we with this? Look, the game will still be a massive draw and no fewer people will likely attend because it's early other than a few over-eager students that may overdo things in South Oakland the night before. Is it the end of the world? Nah. I made this point on Twitter, but if the game were played at 3:00 a.m., it would still be a sellout and packed house. But an early kickoff time for this sort of game just isn't ideal and, on the surface, it doesn't look as if the Pirates did much to help here.