You’d be hard-pressed to find someone with a better perspective on the modern age of Pitt athletics than Dave Jedlicka.
A Western Pennsylvanian since birth, Jedlicka began rooting for Pitt 16 years ago, following a campus tour that solidified the University as his college of choice. He would end up spending 2001-2010 in Oakland, completing bachelor’s degrees in communication science and history and a masters degree in audiology. He served as the president of Pitt’s basketball cheering section, the Oakland Zoo, from 2006-2009.
Now, as an alum, Jedlicka is attempting to maintain his bond with the University and help others do so as well. With the help of GoFundMe.com, a crowdfunding website, Jedlicka is hoping to help alumni of any income level contribute to a new era of Pitt athletics.
The GoFundMe page, entitled “Pitt Football – Locker Fundraiser,” which Jedlicka created on May 22, set the goal to raise $11,500 to help build a new locker in the program’s currently under-renovation locker room in South Side. The donation would be made under the name “Proud Pitt Alumni.”
The donation Pitt requires to dedicate a locker is $10,000, but according to Jedlicka, the goal was set higher due to GoFundMe’s site fees.
As of June 9, the campaign had raised $4,645, nearly half its goal, with donations coming from 108 people over 17 days. Donations range from $5 to $450.
“I just wanted to try to find a way to get younger alumni to better connect to the University,” Jedlicka said. “When I heard about the Pitt football renovation project, I thought, [the GoFundMe] would be a great little campaign to start. I was sure I could find 1000 Pitt fans willing to give $10 to this.”
The decision for Jedlicka, who had never tried any sort of crowdfunding before, to fundraise at this juncture was not arbitrary.
After being displeased with the previous athletic administration, Jedlicka saw the hirings of Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, athletic director Scott Barnes and head football coach Pat Narduzzi as an opportunity to corral support.
“I’m a big believer in that, for something to be a success, you have to have the right timing,” Jedlicka said. “With a new chancellor, a new athletic director and a new football coach, I thought, ‘Hey, this is a great way to get people back and involved,’ because it’s a fresh start.”
Among the 108 GoFundMe contributors is Chris Bruno, a 1999 Clarion University graduate. While not a Pitt alum, Bruno has been a Pitt supporter his entire life and is a staff writer at SB Nation’s Pitt affiliate blog, Cardiac Hill.
“I think what drew me to [donating] was just to be able to put money where my mouth is,” Bruno, who had never participated in crowdfunding before, said. “I thought it was a great idea to do this, for people who don’t make a ton of money but still want to be part of a nice gift for the University.”
While the fact that the page isn’t Pitt-sponsored means that the University can’t promote it, the effort has still made waves throughout the department.
Pat Bostick, former Pitt quarterback and the University’s current Director of Development, is thrilled with the excitement the page has garnered.
“I think the enthusiasm is great,” Bostick said. “I think that what the folks are doing with the GoFundMe is just another way where you’re seeing people come together to help a program they really care about.”
Bostick also noted that the administration isn’t simply resting on its laurels in regards to crowdfunding.
“I think what this has caused us to do is evaluate [the Web and social media] in terms of how people can connect to Pitt athletics and various programs online,” Bostick said. “This has caused us to think about things we’re doing, and I think it serves an example of how support can be mobilized at a relatively low cost.”
For Jedlicka, though, the movement is just as much ideological as it is financial.
“Every little bit counts. It doesn’t matter if it’s one dollar, $5, $10 or $100,” Jedlicka said. “This is just a way for Panther fans to donate a little bit of what they can to say that they’re supporting Pitt.”