PITTSBURGH — Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said on Thursday that Pitt’s men’s basketball season ticket sales have surged in advance of the 2018-19 season, with 1,100 new season ticket holders signing up to push Pitt over 6,000 total. Lyke attributed the increase to the hiring of new coach Jeff Capel.
“Fortunately, we’re well ahead of sales from last year,” she said. “Our ticket office staff has done a tremendous job. Obviously, there’s no question the excitement around Coach Capel and the program that he’s building and the belief in his vision and the confidence that he has and the confidence that we all have in him has permeated to our fans. I think they’re really excited to come and support.”
Kevin Stallings was fired after an 8-24 season that not only saw the Panthers struggle on the floor, but also at the gate.
Pitt set the low-water mark for regular-season Petersen Events Center attendance early in the season and then twice lowered it, settling at a season low of 2,333 against Mount St. Mary’s on Dec. 5, 2017.
Things didn’t improve as Pitt went winless during conference play. Just 2,420 saw Pitt play Wake Forest on Feb. 21. They averaged 4,117 for the season, down from 8,327 in Stallings’ first season and the lowest average attendance for Pitt since 1982.
The Petersen Events Center was once one of the toughest places to play in all of college basketball, with Pitt selling out nearly a decade’s worth of home basketball games before the program’s down turn in the middle of this decade.
“It’s critically important that we get The Pete where The Pete was at one time,” Lyke said. “In the interview with Jeff, he described the environment as being intimidating and a tough home place to play and he knows what can happen there.”
Lyke has already undertaken steps to flip the court at the building after the 2018-19 season to feature the Oakland Zoo student section on television behind the benches and revamp the courtside suites. The suites and other courtside seats are already sold out for 2018-19.
“Visibly, from a national television standpoint, people will see what we all feel when we come into The Pete,” Lyke added.