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Saunders: Who’s to Blame for Another Pitt Bowl Snub?

Saunders: Who’s to Blame for Another Pitt Bowl Snub?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Pitt was passed over in the ACC bowl selection process for a team with a worse record.

If you’ve been paying attention, not only have you heard that before, it’s happened four of the five years the Panthers have been bowl eligible as an ACC member.

Here’s the rundown:

• In 2014, the 6-6 Panthers were passed over for the Military Bowl (Virginia Tech), Independence Bowl (Miami) and Quick Lane Bowl (North Carolina), all of which had identical .500 records. Pitt ended up washing out of the ACC’s bowl tie-ins and was left to play in the unaffiliated Armed Forces Bowl.

• In 2015, 8-4 Pitt was tied with Miami for the third-best record in the conference, but was passed over for a Tier II bowl by 7-5 NC State and instead went to the Military Bowl.

• In 2016, Pitt was among five 8-4 teams vying for bids in the Citrus Bowl and Tangerine Bowl in Orlando (called the Russell Athletic Bowl then and the Camping World Bowl), the first-choice ACC bowls after the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six. But Louisville was chosen for the Citrus Bowl and Miami also went to Orlando, leaving Pitt in the Tier II Pinstripe Bowl.

• In 2018, the selection process went in Pitt’s favor, as the 7-6 Coastal champs went to the Tier II Sun Bowl over 7-5 Boston College, Duke and Georgia Tech.

• This year, there were two 8-4 teams and two 7-5 teams, including the Panthers, when the four Tier II bowls selected. Not only were the Panthers not taken there, with 6-6 Florida State going to the Sun Bowl, but the Tier III Military Bowl took 6-6 North Carolina and the Independence Bowl took 6-6 Miami before Pitt was selected to play in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit.

Of course, since Pitt has joined the ACC in 2013, it hasn’t been hard to see favoritism toward the longer-tenured members of the conference manifest itself in many ways. Is the bowl selection process another time where the new kids on the block are getting left out in the cold?

The Panthers have been the most aggrieved party when it comes to being passed over for bowl selections in that time period, but the teams right behind them are Boston College, which joined the ACC in 2005, and Georgia Tech, which came on board in 1979.

Fellow newcomers Louisville and Syracuse have been helped more frequently than they’ve been hurt in the selection process, with the Cardinals usurping the Panthers in 2016.

That’s probably because the ACC is not the primary driver in the selection process. Though the conference gets some say in addition to instituting the tiers and order that the bowls choose in, and implementing the rule that teams cannot be passed over by schools more than one game behind them in the standings.

But the primary decision-makers are the bowl committees themselves. When it comes to their decision-making, the No. 1 thing they want is eyeballs. Some bowls are more concerned with those that physically arrive on scene, making geographic proximity and ease of travel a priority. Others care more about TV audiences.

Either way, the teams that draw the most attention are the ones that are most frequently over-pursued. Miami has been helped the most often since 2013, with Florida State right behind them. The schools have large, national fanbases, with fans in many cities and are also close enough to the southern bowl games to get their fans to travel.

As with most things in college football, these decisions come down to the almighty dollar, and Pitt’s status as a northern school, with a small, almost exclusively regional fanbase that does not have a reputation as one that travels well is probably going to continue to hurt the Panthers when it comes to bowl-seeding selections for quite some time.

The amount of angst surrounding the end of Pitt’s 2019 season, combined with the unattractive bowl bid and uninspiring opponent that can barely draw at its home stadium 40 miles away from Detroit means there are bound to be plenty of empty seats at Ford Field on Dec. 26.

In this case, it seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Give Pitt a worse bowl game that it deserves because its fans won’t show up, and even fewer will come than otherwise might have. That creates a vicious cycle. Next year, Pitt’s reputation for sending fans to bowl games will likely be even worse than the one that caused them to be passed over three times this year.

There’s no good way to fix that. Pitt fans aren’t going to travel to Detroit on the day after Christmas to see their 7-5 Panthers take on a 6-6 Eastern Michigan team. Heck, they could move the game to Heinz Field and it’d be half empty.

The only way for Pitt to rise in the bowl pecking order is to take advantage of the protections the conference gives. If the Panthers had won one of their final two games, those 6-6 teams would not have been permitted to overtake them.

Then maybe if Pitt ever finds itself in a marquee bowl matchup, it’ll be incumbent on the Panthers’ fans to represent the school well.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Section 122
Section 122
10 months ago

1. Narduzzi
2. Whipple
3. Pickett
4A. OLine Coach
4B. RB Coach
5. Me – I blame myself for falling for the hype that Pitt would finally turn the corner and win 9-10 games. If Beville is equal to Pickett in spring ball sit Pickett down. Saban and Swinney have both sat bets for RS freshman and they were supposed to win 12+ games. Pitt’s looking at 6-7 wins if Pickett starts next year.

Barry Conn
Barry Conn
10 months ago
Reply to  Section 122

Did you not notice all the dropped passes this year? We lead the nation! If we catch only half of what we drop we walk to a 9 win season and this is a non issue! Catch th ed ball and Pickett passes for over 3,000 yards and we are the sacrificial lamb to Clemson! Most fans we be okay with that. Pickett isn’t bad considering he has no running game cause the o-line struggles and the WR drop wait to many opportunities for big plays or extend drives!

Kevin
Kevin
10 months ago
Reply to  Barry Conn

Barry: You are spot on!!!! In 40 years I haven’t seen a team drop this many passes, and on third downs. Pickett has been the best part of this offense. The OL, RBs and WRs have been terrible.

Jason H Smith
Jason H Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Kevin

Picket missed wide open receivers all year. Guys running open and he doesn’t see them. He throws behind receivers. He throws high. His yardage was high because he benefited from throwing the ball 40 times per game. The drops were often but you can’t take the blame off of Pickett. He’s like Narduzzi. He’s a gamer. He’s a leader. He’s just not very good. But when you can’t recruit well, you end up with players that don’t make plays at worst or are inconsistent at best. For the most part, 3 star players get you 3 star performances. So, you’ll… Read more »

Justin Dietrich
Justin Dietrich
10 months ago
Reply to  Barry Conn

Drops were an issue, but we weren’t dropping passes in the end zone. 36 pass attempts per game and Pickett finishes with 10 TDs? A decent QB lucks into more than that.

Shawn
Shawn
10 months ago
Reply to  Barry Conn

Noticed they are bringing a lot of highly recruited WRs in with this recruiting class. I think they took notice of those drops!

Richard Johnson
Richard Johnson
10 months ago
Reply to  Section 122

WOW, you covered it all except WR and lack of discipline.

Terrence Otoole
Terrence Otoole
10 months ago

Pitt does this to themselves with mediocre teams every year ,there’s no one to blame but the program themselves

J Thomas
J Thomas
10 months ago

2020 looks to be a good year on paper. Pickett has a chance for a great year, but all players have to win their job in spring.

The bowls pick the teams based mostly on money. But Pitt gets no help from the ACC. They prefer their long standing Carolina teams in the better bowls. Lots of politics. They also dispose a school with a female AD. Shame on the ACC.

Steve
Steve
10 months ago

If course, Pitt could actually perform above 500 in November or have a really good or even great season or it could have actually won a bowl game over the last 6 years.
Stop whining.
We aren’t being snubbed. We haven’t earned respect.
Just win and shut up Pitt.

Jim Garland
Jim Garland
10 months ago

The “Pitt gets snubbed again” angle is a tough sell. The reality is that Pitt hasn’t played well enough to garner better bowl bids. When it comes down to it, there isn’t any real difference among the Sun, Military or Quick Lane Bowls? They’re all garbage bowls against mediocre opponents And few people care about the outcome. Oh, and no matter where we get slotted, we lose the game. Four in a row; six of the last seven. If Pitt would’ve won the majority of those games, you’d have a valid argument. But they didn’t.

Justin Dietrich
Justin Dietrich
10 months ago

1. The fans for not traveling in years past
2. Narduzzi
3. Pickett

James from Florida
James from Florida
10 months ago

Pitt fans just don’t support the team, I went to the 77 and 82 Sugar Bowls maybe 5k Pitt fans 40k plus Georgia fans.

A little more recent went to the BBVA Compass bowl in Birmingham, maybe 1k Pitt fans, 50k Ole Miss fans and the Ole Miss fans were great and their hospitality was second to none.

Shawn
Shawn
10 months ago

While there is obviously favoritism these bowls understand $. First, the team needs to win. Yes they had a better record but only by one game and those other teams have fans and fans that travel. So, win the games you’re supposed to. This year they should’ve been at least 9-3. They choked in a couple games. Then,the AD needs to look at pricing and marketing. I live in NC and got to the UNC and Duke games when Pitt plays here. The pricing for tickets, food, and parking are much lower! I got my first chance to go to… Read more »

Eric Payne
Eric Payne
10 months ago

I learned a long time ago that if you want to be treated as,equal,you had better be better. Pitt should follow that lesson. Everyone is responsible for this embarrassing season, including the fan base. Instead of trolling, they should show support by putting their a— in seats. Attendance Rules, and until this fan base realizes that, this program is doomed to be mediocre.

Section 122
Section 122
10 months ago
Reply to  Eric Payne

Eric I’ve had my a— in a seat for decades. I’m taking next year off. I will start treating Pitt like I do the Pirates: show me you are serious about winning and I’ll come back.

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