Pitt reaches financial deal to leave Big East early
Athletic director Steve Pederson doesn’t expect University of Pittsburgh teams to be a lame duck in their final season in the Big East Conference.
“We’re going to approach this as, in some cases, the last opportunity for some people to come here, the last opportunity for us to go other places and the last opportunity, in some cases, to play a lot of teams that we’ve played for a number of years, so we are going to try and make the most of this, and I hope to see the best effort we’ve ever given in all of our sports across the board,” Pederson said.
Pitt’s Big East breakup finally has an official separation date. The school will pay $7.5 million to leave for the Atlantic Coast Conference on July 1, 2013, one year earlier than the required waiting period. The deal includes $5 million that Pitt already paid after it announced it was switching leagues last September.
The ACC will move to a nine-game conference schedule in football when Pitt and Syracuse join in 2013, and all schools will play in the men’s and women’s conference basketball tournaments.
Pitt joined the Big East in 1982 and was a charter football member when the league expanded to that sport in 1991. The Panthers have struggled to become nationally relevant in football, never winning an outright conference title.
But the recent decision to launch a four-team playoff for college football’s national championship excites Pederson, who sees Pitt in position to benefit from a trickle-down effect.
“If you win your division in the ACC, much like an NFL-style playoff, now you’re going to the conference championship game. When you go to the conference championship game in the ACC, you’re probably playing for a chance to go play for the national championship, which means you’re trying to get to the semifinals so you can play for the national championship. So I think everything gets elevated,” Pederson said. “The end of the regular season is going to be huge. The championship games in all conferences are going to be huge.
“Then you’re going to head to the semifinals — where, in our case, if the champion is not in the semifinals, they’ll be going to the Orange Bowl to play an outstanding opponent. And then you’re going to have six bowl games, where the top 12 teams in the country will all be playing. So I think, where we talk about a four-team playoff, I think it really becomes almost wider than that. I know people have said, ‘Let’s expand the playoffs.’ I think you’re going to see a real building toward a playoff kind of structure to this.”