Those yearly Coastal Division contests start next year, when the Panthers exit the Big East for the ACC.
"I think it's great Virginia Tech's coming in here Saturday because that makes (our move) more real," Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said over lunch Thursday. "We're going to be playing these guys again. Our fans really loved that game.
"I got here in '96, and we really watched the rise of
The early escape cost them $7.5 million each.
"Our fans are thrilled, and it's changed dramatically since July, now that we know when we're going," Pederson said. "Last fall was different because you're talking about maybe not going for three years. The 27-month provision in the Big East (anticipated) that someone would leave in the spring, so you're looking at two full seasons in the conference to finish.
"The way ours hit in September, you were looking at three full seasons of competition, and that's just too long. Now everybody's talking about it, thinking about it."
Virginia Tech and Pitt met annually as Big East rivals from 1993-2003, prior to the
•Jamie Dixon has built an elite basketball program that plays to sellout crowds and has 11,000 names on the waiting list for season tickets. Prior to last year's hiccup, the Panthers had reached 10 consecutive
•Pitt's football tradition is museum-quality, and the Panthers have finished among the Associated Press' top 25 three times in the last 10 years. But recent turmoil exacted a toll, and Pitt is 0-2 under rookie head coach Paul Chryst.
•Collectively, the Panthers' Olympic sports are not ACC-caliber. Pitt's highest finish in the all-sports Directors' Cup standings in the last five years was 85th in 2008. Every ACC school except
•From the Petersen Events Center to the football practice complex and stadium it shares with the
"I think the whole campus helps," Dixon said. "In the old days we used to drive (prospects) past our exit and drive by Carnegie Mellon and act like that was our campus. …
"There's a lot of new facilities.
Indeed, there is an urban vibrancy, and considerable construction, at Pitt, home to about 18,400 undergraduate students. Located in the city's rolling Oakland neighborhood and celebrating its 225th anniversary, the university is an unusual public-private hybrid — it's officially called "state-related" — and boasts a renowned medical school and hospital.
"I think that's a big part of why the ACC came after us," Dixon said.
Neither Dixon nor Chryst expect ACC membership to radically alter their recruiting. Both will gaze south occasionally, but Chryst will continue Pitt's local focus, while Dixon takes a more national approach — high school basketball in these parts isn't very good.
"For us to do well, we've got to be … a western Pennsylvania team," said Chryst, a former Wisconsin offensive coordinator. "The heart and soul of your team has to be there. … If you're a football junkie (here), high school football on Friday, big deal; Steelers on Sunday, big deal. We've got to make sure that Pitt football is a big deal on Saturday."
Chryst's office overlooks the practice fields the Panthers share with the Steelers. Down the hall are
"That tradition and history, you cannot buy," Chryst said. "It's a fun challenge — you never can repeat history — to get it back to where it's talked about the way it used to be."
Chryst succeeded Todd Graham, who bailed after one season for Arizona State. This after Pitt forced Dave Wannstedt out as coach in 2010.
Conversely, Dixon has embodied stability. Pitt's top assistant when head coach Ben Howland left for
Led by the likes of DeJuan Blair and
Beset by injuries last season, the Panthers were 22-17, 5-13 in the Big East. With three returning starters and an acclaimed recruiting class, do not expect a repeat.
"No one's won more than us in the Big East," Dixon said. "When you have to apologize for 22 wins, that's a good thing. … My goal was to make this the best job in the country. … People may not look at it that way, but that's what I'm trying to do. Got some work to do."
As do Pitt's Olympic sports. But as Virginia Tech has found, ACC competition and revenue can elevate those programs.
"In every sport, we get better by association with the ACC," Pederson said. "We would have kids come in and say, 'We love Pittsburgh, we love the university, the campus is great, the city's great. Everything is perfect. But in my sport, the quality of competition in the Big East just isn't (good enough). I want to win a national championship.' All of a sudden our coaches are seeing now in recruiting that that's real in the ACC."
The Panthers arrive officially next July, and among the countless changes will be Chryst's relationship with his brother Rick, a former ACC associate commissioner.
"Now," Chryst said, "I can send him some ACC gear."