Pitt athletics director Heather Lyke met with members of the local media today to discuss a number of topics related to the school’s facility plans. Much of it, as they termed it, is still in the ideas phase. Before you ask, an on-campus football stadium has been ruled out, at least for now.
Before I get too far down the rabbit hole here, the Post-Gazette has a great breakdown of everything. You can catch that here.
One interesting tidbit broke in that Pitt is changing the television angle for its basketball games.
Pitt AD Heather Lyke said the court at the Petersen Events Center is going to be flipped so that the Oakland Zoo, not the courtside suites, is in the background on game broadcasts.— Craig Meyer (@CraigMeyerPG) April 25, 2018
“When you see our games on national television, I don’t think it showcases our team and students as well as it could,” Lyke said. “The Oakland Zoo is one of the best assets we have at Pitt.
“When they built the Pete, they essentially built it backwards.”
To the non-Pitt fan, this probably sounds like nothing much. But for Panthers fans that have been clamoring for this change for years, it’s a pretty significant development. The move will not be immediate, but will happen after this coming season.
For those not in the know, the crux of the problem is that during the team’s basketball games, the television camera faces the courtside suites. Said suites are generally full of visibly, shall we say, less-enthusiastic fans. Meanwhile, the most raucous fans in the building, the students in the Oakland Zoo section, have their backs to the camera and you generally see very little of their faces and antics.
In the building, of course, it’s a non-issue. And the atmosphere before these last couple of years had always been strong. But on television, the optics, even with a packed house, have always been terrible.
Pitt fans have always been led to believe that somehow changing the cameras couldn’t really been done. It was basically understood that it must be too costly or too difficult to happen and most people, including myself, just sort of accepted it and moved on. Today, Lyke said that wasn’t the case.
Look, don’t get me wrong. I care much less about that than I do about the team being competitive again. If Pitt got back to its winning ways, I couldn’t care less if the games were entirely blacked out. But that said, it’s one of those things that, if you can fix it, you should. And that’s what Lyke is doing.
Pitt must redo the floor as a result so that the ‘Pitt’ is now facing the proper direction, obviously. Will that mean a change in colors? Passively, it sounds like it. Lyke’s only response to that was ‘We may.’
The color change, obviously, is going to happen. It doesn’t sound like it’s happening by this fall but whether it’s the next year or shortly thereafter, barring some kind of weird circumstance, it’s going to happen. You can tell by how often the retro jerseys with the color scheme are trotted out, how the colors are emphasized in recruit visit photos, etc. If there was no plan to do it, they’d be burying those colors as they did in the past instead of shoving them in your faces. Pitt has to redo the floor anyway and I would be surprised if the new floor didn’t have the color change.
To Lyke in general, talk about making an impression.
Since she replaced Scott Barnes, she’s seemingly done everything right. An unpopular basketball coach was not only dismissed despite being relatively early into what was believed to be a significant contract but the hire appears to be a great one. She has continued what Barnes started with wanting more accountability from the Olympics sports coaches and brought on a great women’s soccer coach with incredible credentials. She hired a new gymnastics coach in Samantha Snider and that program responded by making the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2013.
I think the jury is going to be out on new women’s basketball coach Lance White, who was previously an assistant. But even in that instance, she demanded accountability by firing Suzie McConnell-Serio. It’s clear that the days of coaches piling up losing records and keeping jobs are long since over.
Like everyone else, I think the job Lyke is doing is incredible. Now it’s up to the coaches and teams to perform.