Now that spring football has come to a close for Pitt and after the “announced” crowd of 3,642 watched the spring game at Bethel Park High School, there has to be a better way to market and attract more fans to Pitt’s Blue-Gold game.
Pitt officials will say how successful it was, which of course is like how every team says they're happy with their draft picks in the NFL draft, but who is truthfully going to come out and say, “We wanted so and so and were unable to get him so we settled on who was left?”
One also hears that playing the game at a high school creates goodwill and new fans. How many new fans of those 3,642 were created and in turn purchase season or game tickets? A dozen? Four? How many new fans turned into ticket buyers from the spring games at Gateway and North Hills High School?
So here are some ways to improve Pitt’s Spring Game and the overall day experience. This will make the game more appealing to the public and Pitt fans:
1. Play the game on a Saturday afternoon. Friday night is so—high school.
2. Play the game on your regular home field, Heinz Field, which to hear Pitt’s administration and some fans say is a good college football stadium. Don’t get me started on that one.
3. Stop playing the spring game on a high school field. What self-respecting vibrant Division I program does that? Playing on a high school field is so—high school. Even the University of Miami knew enough to play their spring game this year at Sun Life Stadium.
Continue to have fans allowed on the field before the game to get autographs and get pictures with current Pitt players. Which begs the question: Where would you rather have a picture of you or your kids taken with a Panther football player – Heinz Field or a high school field? The Steelers allow fans on the field during their Fan Fest so why not Pitt?
4. Have trophies like Tony Dorsett’s Heisman Trophy and the National Championship trophies on the field available for fans to pose with and take up-close photographs.
5. Have Pitt representatives meet with fans and have seats marked that are still available for season-ticket purchasing. Have these prospective season ticket buyers check out what the view from different seats look like. You can’t do this at a high school stadium.
6. Give out blue and gold Pitt t-shirts to all fans and then also give out some prizes particularly Pitt merchandise. What better way to make the name and brand more visible than to give out Pitt clothing and merchandise.
7. Keep score of the game in a normal fashion. Who likes or understands or remembers that crazy defense gets points system that’s used by other schools and by Pitt in the past? Also, keep the casual fan interested. If the Blue team wins, those wearing Blue t-shirts win a prize. If the Gold team wins, those wearing Gold t-shirts win a prize. You now have fans more interested in the game and outcome cheering their respective side.
8. Have a post-game concert by a known group or performer. The devotion and passion of Pitt fans isn’t enough to draw them to a two-hour spring game, but if you add things that fans want to come out and see, then you will be exposing them to some exciting Pitt football. Make it more than just watching the Blue-Gold game because obviously that isn’t enough.
9. Fireworks after the concert. Every one knows Pittsburghers love fireworks.