Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi isn’t giving up hope that there could be fans at Heinz Field this season — and possibly as soon as this Saturday.
Heinz Field, Pitt and the Pittsburgh Steelers announced earlier that there would be no home games during the month of September for either of the team’s games, but Pitt’s Oct. 3 game against NC State remains up in the air, and Narduzzi is hopeful that there will be some bodies occupying some of the stadium’s famous yellow seats.
“I think there’s a chance,” Narduzzi said Monday. “We don’t know right now, but I’m saying my prayers tonight. There’s a chance, I don’t know when we’ll know, but I think there’s a chance.”
For Narduzzi and his players, the priority remains finding a way for the parents of the Panthers to attend games. Narduzzi feels that having the parents in the stadium would provide less risk of COVID-19 transmission than having them somewhere else where social distancing is harder to practice than in the stands.
“These parents are coming here,” he said. “Kenny [Pickett’s] parents are meeting him at the stadium every day. They’re here, they just can’t go sit in the seats. So they’re all here. Where are they watching the game? They’re probably going to some bar for four hours. I would rather them not be in the bar. I’d rather them be sitting in section 138 with nobody around them in a 75,000-seat stadium. I’d rather them be there than some bar next to who knows who because after the game, those parents are going to be with our kids.
“That, to me, is the scariest part. I still don’t understand it. The safest thing for everybody to do is to put those parents in the stands because they’re going to be with our kids afterwards. If we don’t want any problems and we want to play football, to me, that’s the best thing to do.”
Narduzzi specifically mentioned the Pitt band and members of the student body as other groups that he would like to see prioritized. Pitt could mandate testing for those students in order to enter the facility, as some other universities have, which would have the dual benefit of keeping Heinz Field safe and increasing the number of tests given out to people living and attending class in Pitt’s Oakland campus.
“Parents will be the No. 1 thing,” Narduzzi said. “But here’s a chance for anything, who knows? The governor is going to make that decision. That’s not for me or Heather Lyke or the chancellor. That’s for the governor to make that decision so we’re all safe. We trust that he’ll make the right decision.
“We all want our parents to come. We want our families to go, we want the fans to go. I want the band to go. I want the Panther Pitt to go. I want everybody to go. But the governor has to do what he feels is best for everybody involved. I’m sure he will.”
After the game with the Wolfpack this Saturday, Pitt will go on the road for two weeks to Boston College and Miami before returning to Notre Dame on Oct. 24. Miami has had limited fans at their games at Hard Rock Stadium this season, the only other ACC team that shares a venue with an NFL team.
The Steelers start October with a road game at Tennessee on Sunday. They’ll host Philadelphia on Oct. 11 and Cleveland on Oct. 18.