Pitt students camp outside WPU for ACC Championship Game tickets


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

Hundreds of students, some equipped with tents, line up outside of the WPU Monday evening to purchase ACC Football Championship tickets, transportation and lodging.

By Richie Smiechowski, Staff Writer

A line of eager Pitt students camped out in front of the William Pitt Union on Monday evening with tents and blankets, snaking up to the sidewalk lining Fifth Avenue and back around toward the Schenley Quad.

The hundreds of students stood in wait, ready to stay out overnight despite sub-freezing temperatures and an impending snow storm so that they could score one of a limited number of ticket packages — offered by Pitt Program Council (PPC) — to see the ACC Championship game live.

Later in the evening, as students started to settle into the cold and crowded environment, Pitt Athletics treated them to not only slices of warm pizza, but a visit from head football coach Pat Narduzzi. He went on for the next few minutes to take pictures with dozens of the fans in line.

“Don’t lose your place in line!” Narduzzi announced to the unsuspecting crowd, who immediately erupted in surprise.

Nick Jones, PPC’s public relations director, said while there was excitement in 2018 when Pitt football won its first-ever ACC Coastal championship, it was nothing compared to what happened Monday night.

“Three years ago we did the same event and people were lining up at 4 a.m.,” Jones, a senior media and professional communications major, said. “We did not expect people to be showing up at 4:30 p.m. [the day before] prepared to camp out overnight … there was really no way for us to know there would be this turnout, but it’s very exciting to see that people are willing to wait out in the cold to support their team.”

Instead of separately buying each part of their trip down to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the ACC Championship, PPC offered all-inclusive packages to 160 students with game tickets, transportation and overnight lodging for a drastically discounted price.

PPC announced on its website that package prices would vary depending on how many students would sleep in each hotel room. For a group of four, they offered packages at $90 per person, groups of three at $137 per person and $160 per person for groups of two. There was a $30 security deposit. They also announced that the packages would be sold in limited quantities and on a first come, first serve basis.

Emily Stephens, a first-year nursing major, said the PPC package provided a far cheaper way to get to the game, making it worth camping out overnight in the freezing cold. Stephens, who spent the night with friends and fellow first-year nursing majors Lydia Browell and Grace Anagnost, was at the WPU hours before the large crowd began to form.

“We’ve been here for about three and a half hours, roughly, since about 5 p.m.,” Stephens said. “They’re only letting in 160 people, it’s the reason we’re here.”

Quincey Johnston, PPC’s executive board director, said the group made adjustments on the fly to accommodate the large number of students who had come early to buy tickets.

“We were able to secure an additional 150 tickets for $75 and no hotel room,” Johnston, a senior natural sciences major, said. “Busses are a maybe. We’ve been trying to get them, but they’ve been really high demand and hard to get.”

According to Jones, PPC ended up selling out of their first package, which totalled 156 tickets. Johnston added that they didn’t completely sell out of the second round of tickets, which Pitt Athletics provided. She said because PPC was unable to provide busses, some people were disappointed that they were unable to purchase the first deal.

“In situations like that when there are a limited number of tickets and really high demand, there is always going to be people disappointed,” Johnston said. “That’s just kind of the nature of live events.”

This year’s trip to Charlotte already looks drastically different for the Panthers than it did in 2018, when they took a brutal 42-10 beating from then No. 2 Clemson. Not only does Pitt have three more wins, but it’s been nationally ranked for weeks and in serious contention for a prestigious New Year’s Six bowl bid.

Dylan Mitchell, a 2018 Pitt alumnus who now hosts “The Loyal Sons” Pitt sports podcast, said he expects the atmosphere to be more intense than what he experienced when he attended the 2018 ACC Championship against the Tigers.

“Last time it just felt more like we were happy to be there,” Mitchell said. “This game feels like we should win, and I think there will be some more nerves leading up to kickoff than there were last time.”

While proximity to Charlotte heavily favors Wake Forest, Pitt fans won’t hesitate to make the journey down to the much warmer city to see one of the Panthers’ most meaningful games in decades, but getting there will cost them. Ticket prices are currently ranging from as low as $40 in the upper deck to more than $500 closer to the field.

Ticket prices have risen as gameday draws closer. According to Mitchell, he was able to book 16 tickets together for a price much lower than Ticketmaster is currently offering. He also said flight prices have doubled since he booked.

“Half of our group is flying, they booked their tickets before the UVA game and were able to get tickets round trip for about $240,” Mitchell said. “I have a friend who booked today, and he paid about $450 round trip.”

As for students planning to go to the game, they believe that the energy will be high. Browell said the enthusiasm of the line outside of the WPU is just a microcosm of what people will see from the student section at the game.

“I think it’s going to be insane,” Browell said. “It’s going to be the best student section that we’ve seen at any of the games.”

Anagnost offered similar praises about what she believes the Panther student section will look like in comparison to the more local Wake Forest contingency. Anagnost said she and many others would have done whatever they could to get to the game, even if they weren’t one of the students who got a ticket.

“I knew that if I wasn’t going to get a ticket here, there was a car that I would take there,” Anagnost said. “It’s not going to be just us who would do that either.”

The drive to Charlotte isn’t trivial — it’s more than seven hours long and almost 450 miles in distance. But fans don’t seem to be deterred by the drive or neutral stadium. And according to Stephens, they’ll be doing everything they can to create an atmosphere rivaling Heinz Field on a Saturday gameday.

“I’ve pretty much lost my voice at every football game, and I’m going to be doing that again,” Stephens said. “Even if I’m sick after waiting out here for 14 hours, I’ll still be screaming.”