Basketball: Coaches hope to break world record at Fan Fest

By Kelly Flanigan

Pitt basketball coaches Jamie Dixon and Agnus Berenato hope to break a Guinness World Record… Pitt basketball coaches Jamie Dixon and Agnus Berenato hope to break a Guinness World Record this weekend for most blood pressure screenings in an eight-hour period.

The two, together with athletes from the men’s and women’s basketball teams, hope they can convince more than 2,100 people to have their blood pressure checked between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday at the Petersen Events Center.

The screenings will be held in conjunction with Fan Fest and the Maggie Dixon Heart Health Fair, which run from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Pete. This is the second year Panther Athletics will hold the Heart Health Fair in honor of Jamie Dixon’s sister, who died of a sudden arrhythmia in 2006.

The Fan Fest and Maggie Dixon Heart Health Fair have dual purposes. The first is obviously to give people the opportunity to meet our coaches and players and thank our fans,” said Executive Associate Athletic Director Donna Sanft. “While they’re there, we’re going to give them information about heart health and honor Maggie’s memory.”

Sanft is overseeing the fair and Fan Fest with Chris Ferris, associate athletic director for marketing and promotions.

Students are encouraged to have their blood pressures taken from 9 a.m to 1 p.m., when a raffle will occur.

Sanft said participants will be eligible by raffle to be guest coaches during the Men’s Blue-Gold Scrimmage, attend a post-game press conference of their choice and invite a number of students to attend either a men’s or women’s basketball closed practice and speak with the coaches afterward.

“It’s all insider stuff that nobody else can have access to, that, if you’re a basketball fan, you would absolutely love,” Sanft said. “The drawing will occur in the Lobby at 1 p.m.”

Dixon said, “To see the students getting behind it is something that’s going to be great, and I hope we can break our record for blood pressure screenings.”

The event is designed to raise awareness of the risk of sudden cardiac death and the need for early diagnoses and preventive treatment of heart disease.

In conjunction with this goal, people who attend will have the opportunity to acquire free blood pressure screenings, receive free health screenings and learn about CPR and AED training. They can also access educational heart-health displays.

“There’s so many people you can thank for doing it. It was an idea from Dr. Edmundowicz, head of UPMC Preventive Cardiology,” Dixon said. “The Heart Health Fair has become the main component of the event. It’s going to continue to grow, and it’s a fun event that allows students and student-athletes to interact with each other.”

Maggie Dixon, once the women’s basketball coach of the Army Black Knights, guided her team to its first NCAA Tournament appearance before she died suddenly at the age of 28.

Admission to Saturday’s events is free and includes behind-the-scenes tours of the Petersen Events Center’s facilities, men’s and women’s locker rooms, team weight room, press conference room, (video) scouting room and athletic training facilities.

Women’s season basketball tickets will be on sale, and students will have the opportunity to be placed on the men’s season-ticket waiting list.

Fans will have the opportunity to interact with the Pitt men’s and women’s basketball teams on the Petersen Events Center court, while Dixon and Berenato conduct an interactive “Chalk Talk” in the lobby.

“I think it makes the student-athletes grow as people and students as well. We want them not just to be basketball players but also to grow as kids,” Dixon said. “They’re on a university campus, and the best part of being here is enjoying the campus life and being a part of the student activities in every way.”

The event will feature appearances from both the dance team and the Pitt cheerleaders. 93.7 FM The Fan will be broadcasting live, and there will also be kids’ activities such as a bungee run, a balloon artist, “Panther Bounce” inflatables, face painting and an inflatable hoop shoot.