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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Jeff Long Discusses Upcoming Football Schedule

Yesterday at a press conference, Jeff Long, the Athletic Director of the University of Pittsburgh, announced further details about this year’s upcoming Pitt football schedule, including some exciting news about future “Backyard Brawls” with Pitt’s arch-rival, West Virginia.

Long expressed pride in the fact that Pitt will have a number of games on national and international television, including Michigan State, Navy, WVU, and now, South Florida. More to the point, Long announced that the South Florida game has been moved to Tuesday, November 20 and will be broadcast internationally on QVC beginning at 2:00 a.m. EST. Long explained that “We feel this is another exciting opportunity for Pitt fans not only across the country, but across the globe, to catch the excitement of Pitt football. I understand this is somewhat of a non-traditional starting time for a football game, but the Rumble in the Jungle between Ali and Foreman started at 5 am, and that is still considered one of the greatest sporting events of all time. We are billing this game as “Rumble in the Jungle II”, and will have commemorative T-shirts for sale before and after the game on QVC's "Touchdown Mania" shows. We believe the program is at a point where fans will come to the games to see Pitt play, not because of a Division 1 opponent they have heard of or a semi-convenient date and starting time. Also, the Panthers are huge in Spain, and this give that country's fans a chance to see us.” For halftime entertainment, 1000, and only 1000, decorative Dinocat Pitt pinky rings bejeweled with a stunning “Panther Tooth Diemund” will be available for purchase during a live televised sale.

Long also announced that the Eastern Michigan home opener will start at 6:00. Long described that Pitt football is all about big-time college football atmosphere, and that’s what is being delivered here. “A night game, on a Saturday no less, against what we expect will be a competitive team when Pitt is tied for the lead in the Big East standings has all the making of night fans will be talking about for years.” Rumor has it that as a special “Ex-NFL coach” promotion, the hash marks will be moved back to the NFL placement so there will not be any confusion on the part of Offensive Coordinator Matt Cavanaugh while designing plays, a problem that plagued Pitt during their upset loss to another MAC-foe, Ohio University, two years ago. While it is not likely that the game will not be televised, Long announced that he is trying to arrange for a web stream for the game. “Unfortunately, it seems that Boston College has bought an astounding amount of bandwidth for their games that aren’t picked up by their local TV stations, so I am not sure we can make it happen.”

But the biggest announcement has to be the exciting “Backyard Sandlot Brawl Series” Pitt has inked with West Virginia University. Under the terms of this deal, Pitt will played an unbalanced scheduled of 15 games at WVU for each game at Pitt, In exchange, the teams will use “sandlot” rules. Under these rules, each team is allowed only 1 running play per set of downs, and must either pass or punt for the remaining downs. Long said, “This will really level the playing field for us. First, by limiting the carries, we feel relatively confident we can hold WVU to under 300 yards rushing, which has been our Achilles’ heel these past few games against them. Second, we figure that this will limit LaRod to about 10 carries a game, which seems to be the most he can do without being injured. Lord love the plucky kid.” Another rule change benefitting the Panthers is that neither team will be allowed to use offensive or defensive lineman. This will, in turn, emphasize Pitt’s perennial strength, the wide receiving corps, as all offensive players except the quarterback must go out for a pass on non-rushing plays. “Frankly, it has been so long that WVU has even attempted, much less completed, a pass that I am not sure they even have any passing plays in their playbook. Come to think of it, I am not sure they even have any wide receivers on their roster. They must have, right? In contrast, Pitt has found itself in passing situations a great deal these past few years, so we have a number of plays from which to choose.” Finally, in terms of rushing the quarterback, the defensive team must count to “5 Mississippi” before going after the QB (who is not allowed to run the ball). Long cites the fact that this "will allow the Pitt linebackers traditionally playing 15 yards off the line of scrimmage to begin running full tilt right when the ball is snapped, allowing them to have a full head of steam when they cross the line of scrimmage 5 seconds later. "

Coach Rich Rodiguez of WVU said that he “isn’t worried” about the rule changes, but would not elaborate further.

Long said that 15,000 temporary seats will be added to WVU stadium for the game to accommodate Pitt fans’ desire to travel down the road to see the game. Long noted that these additional seats will only be available for purchase by new season ticket holders. According to Long, the need for the additional seating is also being driven by the fact that “at least half of the stadium will be PSU fans”, which according to reports, is always the situation in any major sporting event taking place within 600 miles of the eastern seaboard.

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