Barnes: Pitt sets football ticket sales record

By Jenn Menendez – Pitt football did some preseason celebrating Thursday, when athletic director Scott Barnes announced the school has sold a program-record 55,630 season tickets.

Some context?

The Panthers’ previous record for season tickets came in 2003, when Larry Fitzgerald last danced through the end zone in a Pitt jersey. That was 13 years ago, when currently running back James Conner was 8.

Barnes shared ticket figures in a media briefing at the team’s South Side facility Thursday afternoon, citing anticipation for Year 2 with coach Pat Narduzzi at the helm, and the team’s Sept. 10 meeting with Penn State, which is already is a sellout.

“It will be an incredible home game atmosphere,” said Barnes. “The majority will be Pitt [fans.]”

Barnes was adamant he had no concern that Penn State fans gobbled up season-ticket packages just to gain access to one game. He said the school’s data suggests it will be a pro-Pitt audience because of the way Pitt staggered sales and provided existing season ticket-holders with the opportunity to renew and purchase extra single-game tickets.

“There’s no concern. This is our house,” said Barnes. “We don’t mind a donation or two from the Nittany Lions, but our fans stepped up mightily very early in the process. We’re really proud of how they stepped up. After one year of coach Narduzzi and the trajectory [of this team] it’s been exciting to see.”

The previous record was 53,775 and set in 2003 when the Panthers went 8-5 with Fitzgerald.

The current figure of 55,630 represents full-season ticket plans, according to Justin Acierno, Pitt’s director of ticket sales and operations. The department does have three-game season ticket mini-packs available for purchase, but not one that includes the Penn State game.

“Not through our ticket office,” said Acierno. “You would not be able to get a [season-ticket package] with Penn State being sold out at this point.”

For that, fans will have to go on Stub Hub or another third party website and shell out $200-plus per ticket.

Barnes said 4,900 three-game ticket plans have been sold, up from the roughly 2,700 that were sold at this point last year.

Some other notable points from Barnes:

• He said his department has not made a decision regarding where it stands on the question of ACC teams expanding from eight to nine conference football games.

He said his staff is analyzing information and did not commit to a firm date for such a decision. The crux of the issue, he said, is determining what games could be available from the other Power Five conferences.

“What is the literal inventory of availability of games from Power Five schools over the next x-number of years,” said Barnes. “That, to me, is really important. Because that tells us if we can or can’t, or how close we can, and if we’re flirting with the edges of not being able to fill a schedule or not. That has to play a part of your decision-making. I don’t think we’re being responsible if we’re not taking that into consideration. You’re just flying by the seat of your pants.”

Duke coach David Cutcliffe told the Raleigh News & Observer this week he is “vehemently against” a 9-game ACC schedule. Narduzzi was less opinionated.

“I really don’t have a preference. We’re going to look at who’s out there to schedule,” said Narduzzi. “If they put them on the schedule, we’re going to play ’em. We want great football teams to come into Heinz Field. We want to go on the road and play in great atmospheres as well. Like I said, I’d much rather play a good opponent than one we’re supposed to beat. There’s a lot less pressure. The higher-ups are going to make those decisions. … Even if I had an opinion, they don’t listen to us anyway.”

For the record, Barnes said he will keep an open dialogue with Narduzzi.

• Barnes intimated that including a Football Championship Subdivision game could soon be a thing of the past.

“There’s a continual play on should we be playing FCS games?” said Barnes. “I think as we move on in time and the playoff committee continues to scrutinize your resume, that may become somewhat less palatable.”