Column: New Pitt show has yet to go ‘Beyond the Script’


Pitt Athletic’s “Pitt: Beyond the Script” TV show is the first sports show Pitt has produced in over a decade. (Photo courtesy of Pitt Athletics)

By Dominic Campbell, Staff Writer

While there tends to be a large focus on collegiate football and basketball, Pitt Athletics says it is looking to expose fans to every single Division I sport included at the University with its new television show “Pitt: Beyond the Script.” So far, this claim doesn’t seem accurate.

The show is being broadcasted on AT&T SportsNet — which typically features action from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Penguins — and is hosted by the network’s main anchor, Rob King. It began broadcasting Aug. 30 and will air on most Thursdays for 25 episodes through March 2019. “Beyond the Script” is also the first sports television show that Pitt has put out in nearly a decade.

In the first episode, Athletic Director Heather Lyke introduced the show by emphasizing how important it is to showcase the caliber of athletes on each of the 19 sports teams Pitt has to offer and how each team is dedicated to winning ACC and National championships.

“I think it’s great because the show — to me, as a fan, and as someone who watches sports a lot — I get excited when I know the people behind the people,” Lyke said. “It gives you a chance to really understand the quality of students and athletes in our program and the quality of coaches we have teaching them everyday.”

“Beyond the Script” has an introduction at the beginning of each episode that shows the viewer how athletes and coaches at the University of Pittsburgh are part of a select few that have the privilege of being a Panther. Then King introduces the episode’s upcoming subject material. The first four shows had a huge focus on football, Pitt’s most popular sport.

The football segments feature the host, usually King, interviewing football head coach Pat Narduzzi. For the first episode, when a game had yet to be played, and the third episode, which followed Pitt’s embarrassing loss to Penn State, there were little to no highlights during the show and more time was spent on the interview. But when the Panthers won the game, as they did against Albany and Georgia Tech, the show naturally featured more highlights.

Football commands a huge portion of each show, which isn’t surprising since the season is now in full swing. Still, when each episode focuses anywhere from seven to 16 minutes of the allotted 29 on football-related coverage, it ends up becoming too focused on one sport for all the others to get proper coverage.

Lyke promised that the focus of the show was to broadcast all 19 teams and show Pitt fans the “people behind the people,” but so far that hasn’t been the case. The first episode showed promise, with Lyke talking about the progress both soccer programs have made under men’s head coach Jay Vidovich and women’s first-year head coach Randy Waldrum.

There was also a segment at the end of the first episode where King interviewed volleyball head coach Dan Fisher and two players, senior setter Kamalani Akeo and sophomore outside hitter Kayla Lund. The three talked about the great success the program has seen lately, especially winning the ACC championship last year.

But in further episodes, we don’t see much detailed coverage of Pitt’s non-football sports. We do see some volleyball coverage, but besides some highlights of the Panther Invitational and a few quibs from Fisher and a couple of his players in the third and fourth episodes, there hasn’t been much else.

The first episode covered both soccer programs, but it was the only one with any real coverage of those teams. The only other soccer coverage included some highlights of the women’s 2-0 win over Duquesne Sept. 6 and the introduction of the new crest on the jerseys in the third episode. But the introduction of the crest wasn’t even new content, as it’s been around since the end of July, so it was more of a filler than anything.

The worst part of the first four episodes is that there’s been no mention of either the men’s or the women’s cross-country teams anywhere at all. For someone who might be a big fan of cross-country, or even someone who is a big Pitt fan and wants to see all of the teams on the show, it shows a disregard toward two teams that are a part of the 19 Lyke was talking about.

A lack of cross-country coverage when the team competes away is understandable, as getting quality highlights and interviews is more difficult. But the Duquesne Duals happened the first week of school in Schenley Park and there was no coverage whatsoever.

And for some sports, there hasn’t been any coverage at all. Besides football, only four other sports have been mentioned with any detail so far. Even men’s basketball only had a brief moment in the spotlight — new head coach Jeff Capel did a five-minute interview in the second episode about why he came to Pitt. While only four episodes have aired and more sports will likely be covered soon, Lyke hasn’t yet made it apparent that all 19 sports teams really matter as much as she said in the first episode.

Regardless of some of the failings of these first four episodes, there have been some bright spots. The second episode introduced the Gold Standard, which is a commitment by the players to be the best student, person and athlete they can be. The segment shows how Panther athletes from all 19 sports teams come together to help each other succeed in all parts of life.

Coverage of the University’s 98th Lantern Night was another quality part of the second episode. We see Lyke, softball head coach Jodi Hermanek and gymnastics head coach Samantha Snider talk about how important and empowering the night is for the females of the University, including the student athletes.

Since the program is only four episodes in, there’s certainly room for “Beyond the Script” to improve and become a better show. In the following months, it will need to cover more sports, get more in-depth interviews and try to steer away from mere current events coverage. To make a truly interesting show that encompasses the entire athletic community, it will need to find more stories about players, coaches and the University away from the field for fans who want to see more than game highlights.