SB Nation is pretty great about giving individual sites all kinds of flexibility and leeway. We rarely do collaborative things where everyone writes about the same thing but they broached an interesting topic recently about where you see your football program in five years.
I'll admit it - I hadn't thought about it before, really. The furthest ahead I allow myself to look into the future of Pitt's teams is usually limited to a couple of years. Beyond that, there are just so many variables. Even when a team has a great recruiting class, success isn't guaranteed in three years. As we saw before the start of last season, Pitt had give guys all go down with medical issues in one shot, and a few couldn't even play football anymore. Guys transfer. There are busts. And don't get me started on the need to retain a coach. Trying to predict a team's success beyond two years is a foolhardy venture.
But if you're talking about the overall health of a program, that's a little different.
Looking at Pitt's long-term prognosis, I'm generally encouraged by what I see and that, of course, all starts with head coach Pat Narduzzi. Narduzzi is energetic, wins games, and as last year proved, can win some big games. He's a dynamic recruiter and a go-getter that has pushed almost entirely all of the right buttons. If Narduzzi is still here in five years, I feel pretty strongly that Pitt's football program will be having success.
As I said earlier, trying to think about actual players five years out is kind of nuts. Sorry, but projecting which 8th graders are on Pitt's radar is beyond my level of expertise or, more importantly, level of interest. But in terms of the way Pitt recruits now, I trust the process and the way Narduzzi does things. Pitt has expanded its borders and has even gotten creative with landing grad transfers. The last two quarterbacks they secured through that process (Tom Savage and Nathan Peterman), by the way, were incredible acquisitions. Pitt has a lot of work to do locally where they are still being beaten too often by Penn State for recruits. But as a whole, I feel like they are moving in the right direction in the quality of talent they're able to land.
In terms of stability, Pitt also finds itself in a great place in my eyes. There may be some uncertainty now with the ACC Network deal after ESPN's recent Order 66, but in general, Pitt's financial future is pretty set in the ACC for the moment. They are making much more money now than they were five years ago and, while it isn't as much as other programs are reeling in, Pitt is just in a much better position to remain competitive. And the conference isn't as ripe for poaching, anymore. In fact, the biggest thing with expansion and the ACC is if they can ever manage to land Notre Dame.
That money is helping with all sorts of things, including bigger recruiting budgets and facility upgrades. And with a new recreational domed lacrosse/soccer facility, Pitt could eventually even add lacrosse as a sport down the line. Financially, the program also reportedly made very solid offers to keep their last two offensive coordinators that left for other places, Jim Chaney and Matt Canada, and you can thank the ACC revenues for that. The idea that Pitt has to go cheap in positions like that is long gone. Will they always do that? I'm not sure. But they're at least in the position to do that now and that's refreshing.
So, I sort of chuckle at this point because I know there are people thinking about the stadium issue. As a refresher, Pitt's current home, Heinz Field, is slowly starting to age. In five years, it will be about 21 years old (buy it a drink or something), if you can believe that. That sounds ridiculously young, but not so anymore with the average shelf life of stadiums being about 30 years these days.
There's no way of knowing what kind of state Pitt will be in by the time five more years have gone by. But, no, I don't anticipate an on-campus stadium by that time. And to be honest, Pitt has bigger fish to fry, anyway. I'm not going to go into the ins and outs of more stadium talk right now but if I had to guess if Pitt was any closer to building an on-campus stadium, I'd probably say no. As I've said before, Pitt has a nice situation now where they don't have to worry about maintaining their own facility, making upgrades, etc. If it was on-campus, that would be ideal. But when you consider the amount of money Pitt is probably saving by not having its own facility, it makes it easier to understand the decision to go off campus.
Pitt will eventually need a new stadium, but so will the Steelers. And Heinz Field still has quite a bit of shelf life remaining. The Steelers are right in the middle of the league in terms of the age of their venues and even in terms of that 30-year clock, there would still be nearly a full decade left. The Panthers will probably be in the process of beginning to figure out what they need to do next in five years, but assuming the stadium goes for at least 30 years, the decision-making would be sort of early in the process.
What about you? Where do you see the program in five years? Better, worse, about the same?