Pitt football receives $20 million donation, renames head coaching position


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Pitt football received a $20 million donation — the largest single donation in Pitt Athletics history, the department announced Thursday morning.

By Dalton Coppola, Assistant Sports Editor

Pitt football received a $20 million donation — the largest single donation in Pitt Athletics history, the department announced Thursday morning.

Chris Bickell, a 1997 Pitt alumnus and business professional, donated the money. Half of it will immediately go toward enhancing training, nutrition and learning environment infrastructure. The other $10 million will be placed in an endowment.

Bickell works in the information technology sector and founded Liberty IT Solutions. He’s currently the CEO of WellHive, a healthcare firm that helps military veterans. Bickell, a longtime supporter of Pitt football, said he’s proud to give back to the University and the football program.

“I am a proud Pitt man and it is my honor to give back to this great University,” Bickell said. “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.”

Pitt football’s head coach position will now permanently be named the “Chris Bickell ’97 Head Football Coach.” Although the gesture may seem out of the ordinary, this is not the first time a football program renamed its head coaching position after a donor. Prominent programs such as Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan and Cal have done this as well. Athletic Director Heather Lyke further expressed her and the rest of the department’s appreciation in a statement.

“We are forever grateful for Chris’s generous donation that demonstrates his commitment to our football program and the extraordinary experience we want for our student athletes, both in the present and into our future,” Lyke said. “Chris understands the transformational role athletics can have on a young person’s life, and the joy and excitement it brings to students and alumni alike. Chris is an exceptional person and we are proud to recognize his passion and support of the Panthers by naming the head football coaching position in his honor.”

Lyke mentioned that having no ticket revenue coming in during the 2020-21 athletic year put a significant dent into the department’s budget earlier this year. The $20 million donation will help ease any lingering concerns for Pitt Athletics. 

After a year of financial stagnation for the athletics department, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said he wanted to ensure the donation’s impact wouldn’t soon be forgotten.

“Chris is a generous and longtime supporter of the University of Pittsburgh’s football program,” Gallagher said. “This gift, however, is perhaps his most powerful, and it will help to shape the future and success of Pitt football for years to come.”

Bickell will speak with the team today ahead of their season opener against UMass on Saturday.