The Pitt football program announced on Thursday morning that it had received a gift of $20 million from 1997 Pitt alumnus Chris Bickell. The gift set a record as the largest donation ever given to a Pitt athletic program.
“Chris is a generous and longtime supporter of the University of Pittsburgh’s football program,” Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said on Thursday. “This gift, however, is perhaps his most powerful, and it will help to shape the future and success of Pitt football for years to come.”
The $20 million will go toward capital improvements intended to benefit current and future Pitt football players. Half of the gift will be immediately applied to training and nutrition expenditures as well as improvements to the learning environment infrastructure. The other half will go into an endowment so that it can be used to fund similar efforts in the future.
As a show of gratitude for the generous gift, Pitt has named the head football coach position in his honor, with Pat Narduzzi and his successors henceforth bearing the title “Chris Bickell ‘97 Head Football Coach.”
With the move, Pitt will become one of several schools to name a head coach position after a donor. Some of the others include Army, Harvard, Michigan, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn, Penn State, Rice, Stanford and Yale.
“We are forever grateful for Chris’ generous donation that demonstrates his commitment to our football program and the extraordinary experience we want for our student-athletes, both in the present and into our future,” Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said. “Chris understands the transformational role athletics can have on a young person’s life, and the joy and excitement it brings to students and alumni alike. Chris is an exceptional person, and we are proud to recognize his passion and support of the Panthers by naming the head football coaching position in his honor.”
Since graduating from Pitt in 1997, Bickell has spent the majority of his career in information technology. The Pitt alumnus founded Liberty IT Solutions and served as a partner in the company until 2021, when it was acquired by Booz Allen Hamilton. Bickell now serves as the CEO of WellHive, which works to provide veterans with access to healthcare services.
“I am a proud Pitt man, and it is my honor to give back to this great university,” Bickell said. “I believe the leadership is in place to take Pitt athletics and our football program to the next level. I hope my gift inspires others to do their part in making that happen.”
After the $20 million gift was revealed to the public, Bickell met with the football team on Thursday and spoke to the players about the upcoming season. Pitt also announced plans to recognize Bickell for his record-setting gift during the team’s season opener against UMass at Heinz Field on Saturday.