In Wednesday’s press confrence, Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke discussed, among other things, the current state of the Panthers’ football program and what is to be expected entering the 2021 season.
As expected, COVID was a popular discussion topic, specifically how it affects what attendance will look like at Heinz Field in the fall.
“We’re planning on full capacity,” Lyke said. “We don’t know, we have to go into it thinking full capacity. That’s our expectation. That’s our hope. But obviously, we are still in the middle of a pandemic, we respectfully understand that. We’re really actively getting vaccinated, both all of our staff, our coaches, our student athletes, but the reality is we are going to have to manage with what the state of the country is in from a medical standpoint, and then obviously what the state of Pennsylvania is and our campus and our county.”
The current percentage allowed for capacity at outdoor events is 50% in Pennslvania, with just under four months until Pitt’s home opener against UMass.
Lyke also addressed the current state of program and expressed her confidence in Pat Narduzzi and his coaching staff.
“I’m confident in Coach Narduzzi’s abilities to bring a great group of coaches together, obviously we lost two coaches, one went on to be a coordinator, which is great for Rob Harley, but I think he recruited two tremendous coaches to the staff this coming year. Six guys go to the NFL which was a top 10 draft class in the country, so no doubt, again, our coaches have taught them well, and I think tremendous kids as well as athletes. Just great students to be around, I mean I really enjoy being around that team, it’s a great culture. We’ve got a tremendous schedule set up for the fall, obviously it speaks volumes that we have not had a lot of kids go into the transfer portal from our football program, which it does speak volumes to the culture and the relationships that those student athletes have with our coaches. Pat and I have had long conversations, postseason, things that they need to work on, he knows my issues with what I think they need to work on, but he’s the head football coach and he’s gonna address those issues head-on.”
However, Lyke did briefly touch on one thing that she would like to see the team improve upon.
“I think some statistics jump out. I think that we had a couple situations in close games, whether it’s a penalty here or a discipline call here. The penalties I think are one of the things that Coach and I have talked about candidly, he knows that, and it’s certainly something that he is managing and his whole staff is. It’s not one person, it’s not one student-athlete that was the issue. But I just think philosophically, the level of when it comes to some penalties that are discipline oriented, those are things you can eliminate.”
Pitt had the third-most penalties and penalty yards in the ACC in 2020, and had the fifth-most in the country in each category.