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Pitt notebook: AD says no plans for on-campus football stadium

Jerry DiPaola
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke speaks during a news conference Monday, March 20, 2017, at Petersen Events Center.
gtrpittad11032117
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke speaks during a news conference Monday, March 20, 2017, at Petersen Events Center.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said Tuesday there is usable land on the school’s upper campus to ease “a facility need,” but there are no plans to convert it into a football stadium.

“I don’t see that as an initial priority right now from the facilities standpoint,” she said during a roundtable discussion with reporters at Petersen Events Center. “We have some teams that don’t have adequate practice and competition facilities.”

Lyke said Pitt has renewed its relationship with Populous, an architectural firm headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., that previously worked on a facilities master plan for the university.

“(A total) of 16 teams practice and compete up on the hill,” she said. “That’s 84 percent of the student-athletes. We need to address some of the facility deficiencies in that area.”

Asked if anyone of significance has approached her about building a football stadium, she said, “No. The conversation has certainly been broached and raised, but no one significant.”

A good neighbor

Lyke said Pitt’s relationship with the Steelers — they have shared Heinz Field and the South Side practice facility since 2001 — is an important one for the university.

“It’s extraordinary,” she said. “We are very lucky and blessed to be a part of working with (the Steelers) on so many levels.”

She said he has met with Steelers president Art Rooney II.

“He cares about (Pitt football),” she said. “For him to give time to me, frankly, I’m very appreciative for that. He’s listening. He wants our ideas.”

What about Penn State?

Lyke said she hasn’t had any formal discussions with Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour about renewing the team’s rivalry after the current four-game series expires in 2019.

Last month, Barbour said the game probably won’t happen again before 2026 because Penn State doesn’t have an open slot for a Power 5 school.

“But I know Sandy well and have profound respect for her,” Lyke said. “It’s a little bit more on their scheduling philosophy and how we can fit into their scheduling philosophy. We’re trying to make us as attractive as possible to fit into that scheduling philosophy.

“We would love to continue any type of ongoing football games with Penn State, if possible.”

Uniform swag

Nike is studying the Pitt brand, including the script Pitt logo and the popular blue-and-gold throwback uniforms the football team wore twice last season.

Players love the uniforms, and Lyke admitted, “Gear is important. Swag is a thing.”

Pitt will wear the throwback uniforms in two games this season, Lyke said.

To sit or not

Lyke said she hopes the NCAA continues to review its transfer policy, and she believes graduates and undergraduates should be required to sit out a year if they choose to change schools.

“In sports that currently have (that) requirement,” she said.

Pitt backed off trying to block former Panthers basketball player Cam Johnson from transferring to ACC rival North Carolina when the NCAA said he would be permanently ineligible if he wasn’t released, Lyke said. Johnson graduated before transferring.

“That’s not what we intended,” she said. “He did terrific things here.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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