Start printing those “Code Blue” shirts.
Pitt has announced that the Navy football game has been moved to 8 p.m. Oct. 10 – it was originally scheduled for Oct. 13 – so it can be televised nationally by ESPN.
The Panthers move the marquee game on their woeful home schedule to a Wednesday, so it will have exclusive coverage as the nation’s only college football game.
Is this good or bad?
Here’s Pitt athletic director Jeff Long’s take: “Playing the national college football showcase game on Wednesday night allows us to take advantage of an opportunity for national exposure without compromising our desire to not play on Friday nights out of respect for the traditions of Western Pennsylvania high school football.”
We already know that Pitt wasn’t invited to play on ESPN’s Thursday Night series. Is Long telling us that ESPN wanted the Navy game on a Friday night but Pitt wasn’t willing to go head-to-head with WPIAL football? If so, that’s good Pitt is keeping its word.
Either way, Long has to know that playing on a Wednesday night isn’t going to help attendance at Heinz Field, especially with its out-of-town fans. Not with Eastern Michigan (Sept. 1), Grambling (Sept. 8), Connecticut (Sept. 22), Cincinnati (Oct. 20), Syracuse (Nov. 3) and South Florida (Nov. 24) comprising the rest of the home slate.
Here’s Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt’s take: “This is a real win-win for us. We’re getting a nationally televised game, which is always great for our program and recruiting. The date change also gives us a week-and-a-half to prepare for two consecutive opponents in October, which we hope to use to our advantage.”
This makes more sense.
Wannstedt loves the idea of having extra preparation time (although having a bye week between Rutgers and USF last season didn’t work out so well). With Oct. 6 serving as a bye week, Pitt now has 10 days between the UConn and Navy games and another nine days between the Navy and Cincinnati games.
Although Wannstedt’s job is not on the line this season, only his third as Panthers coach, he knows that forward progress must be made this fall. All signs are pointing to 2008 as the breakthrough season, and the Navy game could factor into whether Pitt earns a bowl bid.
Wannstedt will take any advantage he can get.
Here’s my question: Is moving the Navy game to a Wednesday night for an ESPN national television audience a good move or bad move for Pitt? Please be sure to include your first name and hometown/neighborhood in sending your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.