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Vukovcan: Chris Bickell, Alliance 412 Truly Change the Game for Pitt Football



Pitt football super fan and philanthropist Chris Bickell

There are Pitt football fans who have spent the last week worrying about the long-term future of the program.

The worry isn’t stemming from the team’s ability to compete on the field long-term but instead, it’s been about where Pitt may be competing in the near future.

With the craziness of conference realignment and teams seemingly playing musical chairs, the long-term fear is that Pitt could be left standing on its own.

With the ACC’s Grant-of-Rights in place until 2036, Pitt very likely has nothing to worry about. With some of the media reports out there, it can be hard for Pitt fans to feel that way, but it’s the truth.

College sports are in a state of flux right now, and the craziness that has gone on over the last couple years will likely continue, so be prepared.

But the real reason Pitt is in a good position is because of its leadership, which as everyone knows, hasn’t always been the case. But there is a strong core in place in AD Heather Lyke, head coach Pat Narduzzi and maybe most importantly Chris Bickell.

Former Pitt wide receiver Cam Sadler tweeted this today, and in all seriousness, it might and maybe should happen.

After the news today of the student-athletes on Pitt’s football team receiving a team-wide NIL deal, is there a more popular person at Pitt today than Bickell?

For the last two years, we’ve truly learned a couple of things about Bickell:

1.) He loves Pitt, 2.) He’s not just a talker, he’s a man of action.

With the landscape of college sports changing over the last few years, it was obvious that something or someone needed to step up financially if Pitt was going to truly be able to keep its head above the water and compete.

What person with Pitt or Pittsburgh ties would step up and throw Pitt athletics a lifeline — or more specifically a big bag of money?

How about Pitt grad and Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper or Pittsburgh native Mark Cuban?

The real leader has stepped forward, and it’s Chris Bickell.

Two years ago, the 1997 Pitt graduate donated an unprecedented $20 million to the Pitt football program. Bickell had this to say after making the donation:

”I am a proud Pitt man and it is my honor to give back to this great University. I believe the leadership is in place to take Pitt athletics and our football program to the next level. I hope my gift inspires others to do their part in making that happen.”

That gift got Bickell’s name attached to the Pitt football head coaching position, “Chris Bickell ‘97 Head Football Coach.”

While that was big, the news today is potentially program-changing and should make Bickell an all-time legend in Pitt athletics history.

While this wasn’t a one-person act but a team effort, which ironically is the theme of a Narduzzi-led team, Bickell spearheaded the effort to get the Pitt football team an NIL collective. Panther-Lair’s Chris Peak is reporting that every scholarship player will receive a five-digit deal.

It’s hard to describe all the reasons this is so important but to name a few:

  1. Current players on the team finally know they’re getting paid legally. They won’t have to wait to post-graduation to see this money.
  2. With players jumping into the transfer portal at an alarming rate, this might pump the brakes on any player that might be thinking about it.
  3. Tampering from other programs is happening all around the country, but with Pitt players knowing they’re getting money already, this could help stop any potential departures.
  4. Maybe most importantly, this will no doubt help in Pitt’s future recruiting efforts. Aside from the education, the experience of playing for Pitt and a track record of getting players to the NFL, Pitt coaches can now use this NIL opportunity as a lure for prospective recruits.

This by no means puts Pitt in the upper echelon of revenue generators, but it does allow the program to compete with some of the top programs, and they won’t have to take a backseat or feel subservient to anyone.

And it’s all because of the efforts of Bickell and Alliance 412.

As Sadler said earlier, and it might not be that far from the truth, “Where is the Bickell statue being built?” At the rate that Bickell is making things happen, that statue may not be a pipedream after all.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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10 months ago

Funny! In Pro Sports talent in Unions get 55% of generated Revenue, in College NCAA / University Athletics department are suggesting Alumni should pay the talent. Always the cry Other Sports would be harmed by FB and MBB getting what they generate instead of the current system which re-distributes to non-generating Teams (i.e. Mom and Dads in the crowd only)

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