Liebermann: Advice for future Pitt athletics

By Randy Lieberman

So, this is it. For the final time, you’ll read my weekly spiel.

It was my pleasure… So, this is it. For the final time, you’ll read my weekly spiel.

It was my pleasure to write about sports for you, and whether you rejoice or are stricken with sadness after losing your favorite columnist, this will be my parting word.

I remember way back when, sitting in a chair getting grilled by former Pitt News sports editors Jeff Greer and Pat Mitsch during my initial interview. That was when writing about Pitt sports seemed about as natural as doing a backflip from a standstill.

Whew, what was that, ages ago? Slightly less than four years actually, I still can’t do that backflip, but I can write a game recap at least. Back then, Boomerangs still boomed, market was a “place” — not central — and Pitt fans went to football games to heckle the Toledo Rockets more so than to watch their team win.

Since then, I’ve had the privilege of watching Pitt athletics grow into a nationally recognized department, full of bright minds gaining momentum with every little athletic accomplishment.

The premier accomplishment, in my eyes, was Pitt’s 13-9 victory over then-No. 2 West Virginia. We all know where we were when Pitt pulled the biggest rabbit out of the most unexpected, proverbial hat against the Mountaineers back in 2007.

Sure, Pitt’s not the football powerhouse like, say, Ohio State or Florida, nor will it ever be. To believe one day Pitt will sell out Heinz Field for its spring game, like these schools do at their stadiums, is absurd. Don’t get me wrong, head coach Dave Wannstedt is leading the program splendidly, but with a fan base not as expansive as others, Pitt’s program won’t ever become the major one its fans hope for.

Or at least the one Pitt fans get when they go to the Petersen Events Center.

Wow, Pitt basketball fans, you better count your blessings that you were born when you were. For the foreseeable future, probably the next four years, I see nothing but consistent Sweet 16 teams rolling through Pitt. Dante Taylor is going to be really good, and just wait until some of Pitt’s recruits develop into Big East standouts.

For all the praise I have for this University that I love, I do want to make some final recommendations for Pitt athletics as I depart:

Please, please, hold one Pitt throwback jersey game annually

I’ve debated this countless times. Why won’t Pitt football ever wear its script uniforms for at least one game a year? Is some kind of merchandising/marketing issue holding this back, because if it is, that’s a darn shame. Imagine sitting in the stands, with Panther greats Dan Marino and Tony Dorsett on hand, and seeing Pitt run out of the tunnel wearing the jerseys from a time when it won three national championships in five years.

Remove the overbearing advertisements on the best seats at Heinz Field

This is the most puzzling of all. The seats directly below the scoreboard, the ones where you can smell what scent of deodorant each player is wearing, are some of the best seats in the stadium. Remove the Big East and Pitt advertisements and put fans in those stands — maybe a “Lewis Leap” or “JB Jump” can come of it after touchdowns.

Turn on the “Victory Lights” after Pitt basketball wins, too

Pitt has a great emblem of victory in the gold lights on top of the Cathedral of Learning, but why should football hog all of its glory? Turn them on after Pitt basketball wins. It’s a great way to feel a sense of school pride for the top athletic program on campus. If not the regular season, then definitely the postseason.

Give me one good reason to hike a mountain to watch a Pitt baseball, softball or soccer game

Most of us South Oaklanders don’t venture up near Trees Hall too much, except if we’re working out, swimming or attending a fitness class. With Pitt’s new Petersen Athletic Complex, Pitt needs to make sure fans are in the stands for Pitt baseball, softball and soccer games. Get a shuttle to run from the Union to the complex. The view of Downtown should be worth the trip alone.

All right, that’s enough of my whining.

Back to that interview with Greer and Mitsch. I remember I thought, “Wow, when will I get my own column?” I thought it would never happen. It did, and though I’ve never been the funniest, I’ve always tried to be the most informative columnist I could.

Now, upon my leaving The Pitt News, I hope you feel the same.

It’s been a great four years. I’ve watched amazing things happen in sports I thought I would never appreciate. But it wasn’t the all-too-painful shock I felt as I watched Scottie Reynolds nylon a floater to send Pitt packing in the Elite Eight.

Nor was it watching in amazement at the emergence of linebacker Dan Mason in Pitt’s victory over Navy last season. It wasn’t even live-blogging as Gary McGhee had the most technically fouled stumble to the hardwood at West Virginia this past season.

It was telling the story of the athletes here at Pitt who don’t get the limelight: a volleyball player, a gymnast or a swimmer. That’s where the real stories are, and I hope I gave them the print they deserved.

There are too many people to thank, but to editors, friends, fellow writers, athletes and the media relations’ reps who I incessantly nagged, I thank you.

Sure, college was fun, and it was tough. But a funny thing happens when you strike the right balance between hard work and fun: You have the time of your life.

I hope you have, because I certainly did.