Pederson Discusses Pitt Kickoff Times

The speculation is over, as far as the opening two home games are concerned for the Pitt football team, because start times were announced Wednesday by Panthers athletics director Steve Pederson.

The Pittsburgh season-opener with Bowling Green Aug. 30 at Heinz Field will have a noon kickoff, as anticipated, and be nationally televised by ESPNU. The following week's game against Buffalo Sept. 6, will kick off at 6 p.m. with no television scheduled.

"When I got here, the Pirates schedule was already out, so we knew we would have some time challenges, as far as the opener was concerned,'' Pederson said. "We tried to do everything that we could, but ultimately, ESPN wanted the game. There's a lot of anticipation about our team going into this season, and they wanted the game to be on TV.

"So, we could have kicked a little later if it wasn't on TV, but probably not past 1 or 1:30 (p.m.) anyway. (But) we're going to make it a great day, so I'd say you might want to get to the North Shore at 10 o'clock that morning, because it's going to be a fun two hours prior the game.''

A complete pre-game schedule for the Buffalo game has not yet been announced, but Pederson assured fans that a fun time will be had by all.

"We wanted to factor in different start times for our games (with consideration) to our fans as long as we could control it,'' Pederson said. "(So), we felt that early in September, a night game would be a fun thing to do.

"We'll have some events in and around the game, but we felt that a 6 o'clock kick time is early enough that it won't be too late of an ending for families to attend the game.''

The start time for the Panthers' Sept. 20 home game with Iowa is still to be determined, and due to its attractiveness for television, might be a 12-day selection by ESPN or ESPN2, Pederson said. Some five months ago, when Pederson discussed aggressive season-ticket selling plans, he expressed an interest in later starts than noon for home games.

Additional known start times include the Oct. 2 game at South Florida, 7:30 p.m. and televised by ESPN; Oct. 18 at Navy, 3:30 p.m. on CBS College Sports Network (formerly CSTV) and Nov. 1 at Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m. and nationally televised by NBC (The Notre Dame Broadcasting Network).

The 101st edition of the "Backyard Brawl'' with West Virginia will have a noon kickoff Nov. 28 at Heinz Field and be a national ABC telecast. The slot previously was used for the Texas versus Texas A&M game, but that matchup was moved to Thanksgiving Day.

Additional kickoff times and TV clearances will be announced at later dates.

"We think that the first game, in particular, is going to be so much fun and will have so much electricity in anticipation of the game that whatever the kick time is it shouldn't affect the crowd,'' Pederson said. "And, certainly, the West Virginia game, we feel the same way about it (and the noon start).

"The Steelers are going to open their season with a 1 o'clock kickoff game, so the earlier games are kind of just a part of college football in these times. And it's what the situation is, but we're going to make it a great day. And people will just have to get there a little earlier, but we think we can make it worthwhile and fun. And we expect it to be a great opener.''

It appears that the Iowa game is destined to be a noon kickoff with the Pirates scheduled for 7:05 p.m. with a concert afterward, but Pederson said that he has been working closely with the Pirates to at least help future games.

"We don't get into much wiggle room,'' Pederson said. "Since I got back here, Frank Coonelly (the Pirates President) and I have gotten to be good friends,'' Pederson said. "We've talked about into the future about mixing schedule ... and do the best that we can for both of our fan bases so that we don't have conflicts as we go forward on the same weekends.

"And we're committed to do this, but both schedules were set before both of us got here. I was kind of hopeful when I saw that the Texas-Texas A&M game was moved that we might get that window. And, certainly, it's a fabulous window (for television).

"I think that history would say that Friday after Thanksgiving is a great day for watching college football,'' Pederson added. "And there aren't as many games going on, so you could captivate the nation that day. So, it's a great day for our football program (to be on television).''

Notes: Pederson said that ticket sales have gone well, and Pitt is optimistic that their goal to sell out the season can be achieved. ... The club level and lower bowl tickets are nearly sold out. ... Long-time Pitt player, coach and administrator, Kirk Bruce, has been promoted to associate athletic director for sports administration. He will still oversee Pitt's Olympics sports programs.

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