Pitt announced on Friday night that its football program will decline to play in a bowl game during the 2020 postseason despite its status as a projected invitee. The decision was made by the team and supported by the school.
“Our football student-athletes’ sacrifice and commitment have been extraordinary,” Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said. “This season has been an especially taxing experience, physically and mentally, on and off the field. Despite this unprecedented environment, our team finished strong concluding with last night’s win at Georgia Tech. We are thankful and proud of how they handled the past six months and want them to have a well-deserved restful holiday season with their families and loved ones.”
Pitt is the second ACC program to announce plans to skip the 2020 postseason, as Boston College issued a similar statement on Thursday. In that statement, Boston College athletic director Patrick Kraft noted the Eagles players were “emotionally spent” after not seeing their families since June in an unusually taxing and difficult season due to COVID-19. Both Pitt and Boston College had legitimate chances of earning bowl game invites.
With the news, Pitt finishes a uniquely challenging 2020 with a 6-5 record. It also ends the year on a high note, as the team pulled off a 34-20 win over Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Thursday. The Panthers also won three of their last four contests, with the lone loss coming to Clemson.
Had Pitt elected to participate in the 2020 postseason, the team would have also been missing a few key contributors. Earlier in the day on Friday, defensive stars Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones II both clarified that they would not be playing in the postseason no matter what Pitt decided and declared for the NFL draft. Damar Hamlin was also not expected to return after missing the Georgia Tech game along with Weaver, and the team was already without previous opt-outs Jaylen Twyman and Paris Ford.
With that said, there was no shortage of gratitude for those players and the team as a whole for their sacrifices this season, and Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi expressed his pride in his players and their efforts.
“In my three decades as a coach, I’ve never been around a group of players who have faced greater challenges beyond the field than our team this year,” Narduzzi said in a statement. “And yet, from the time they arrived back on campus in early June, these young men never wavered — not in the face of rigorous health protocols, multiple rounds of COVID testing each week, or while handling the mental and physical challenges of playing 11 games in a pandemic. I’ve always been proud to be Pitt’s head football coach. That pride was especially great in working with this 2020 team. They have my eternal gratitude and respect.”