A line of avid Pitt students camped outside the William Pitt Union Monday night with tents and blankets, winding their way to the sidewalk bordering Fifth Avenue and back toward the Schenley Quad.
The hundreds of students waited, ready to spend the night despite sub-freezing temperatures and an impending snowstorm so they could score one of the many ticket packages – offered by the Pitt Program Council (PPC) – to view the ACC Championship Match live.
Later that evening, as the students began to settle into the cold and crowded environment, Pitt Athletics treated them not only to hot slices of pizza, but also a visit from head football coach Pat Narduzzi. . He continued for the next few minutes taking pictures with dozens of fans online.
“Don’t lose your place in line!” Narduzzi announced to the unsuspecting crowd, who immediately erupted in surprise.
PPC Public Relations Manager Nick Jones said there was excitement in 2018 when Pitt Football won his first-ever ACC Coastal Championshipit was nothing compared to what happened Monday night.
“Three years ago we had the same event and people were lining up at 4 a.m.,” said Jones, a professional media and communications specialist. “We weren’t expecting people to show up at 4:30 p.m. [the day before] prepared to camp overnight…we really had no way of knowing there would be such turnout, but it’s very exciting to see that people are willing to wait in the cold to support their team.
Instead of purchasing each leg of their trip to Charlotte, NC for the ACC Championship separately, PPC offered 160 students all-inclusive packages with game tickets, transportation and overnight accommodations at a significantly reduced price.
CPC announced on its website that package prices would vary depending on the number of students sleeping in each hotel room. For a group of four, they offered packages at $90 per person, groups of three at $137 per person and $160 per person for groups of two. There was a $30 security deposit. They also announced that the packages would be sold in limited quantities and on a first-come, first-served basis.
Emily Stephens, a first-year nursing student, said the PPC package offered a much cheaper way to access the game, making camping overnight in the freezing cold worthwhile. Stephens, who spent the night with friends and fellow freshman nursing majors Lydia Browell and Grace Anagnost, was at WPU hours before the large crowd began to form.
“We’ve been here about three and a half hours, about, about 5 p.m.,” Stephens said. “They only let 160 people in, that’s why we’re here.”
Quincey Johnston, director of the PPC board, said the group had made adjustments on the fly to accommodate the large number of students who had come in early to buy tickets.
“We were able to get 150 extra tickets for $75 and no hotel rooms,” said Johnston, a natural science student. “Buses are a maybe. We tried to get them, but they were in high demand and hard to get.
According to Jones, PPC ended up selling its first package, which totaled 156 tickets. Johnston added that they hadn’t completely sold out the second set of tickets, provided by Pitt Athletics. She said that because PPC was unable to provide buses, some people were disappointed that they were unable to purchase the first contract.
“In situations like this, when there are a limited number of tickets and very high demand, there will always be people who are disappointed,” Johnston said. “It’s just kind of the nature of live events.”
This year’s trip to Charlotte is already dramatically different for the Panthers than it was in 2018, when they made a stark decision. 42-10 then beating No. 2 Clemson. Not only has Pitt picked up three more wins, but he’s been nationally ranked for weeks and in contention for a prestigious New Year’s Six Bowl bid.
Dylan Mitchell, a 2018 Pitt alumnus who now hosts the Pitt sports podcast “The Loyal Sons,” said he expects the atmosphere to be more intense than what he experienced when he attended the 2018 ACC Championship against the Tigers.
“Last time, we felt like we were happier to be there,” Mitchell said. “This game feels like we should win, and I think there will be more nerves before kick-off than there was last time.”
While proximity to Charlotte strongly favors Wake Forest, Pitt fans won’t hesitate to travel to the much warmer city to see one of the Panthers’ most significant games in decades, but getting there will cost them dearly. . Ticket prices currently range from as low as $40 in the upper deck to over $500 closer to the pitch.
Ticket prices have increased as Gameday approaches. According to Mitchell, he was able to book 16 tickets together for much less than what Ticketmaster is currently offering. He also said flight prices have doubled since he booked.
“Half our group is flying in, they booked their tickets before the UVA game and were able to get round-trip tickets for about $240,” Mitchell said. “I have a friend who booked today and he paid around $450 round trip.”
As for the students who plan to go to the game, they believe that the energy will be there. Browell said the line’s enthusiasm outside of the WPU is just a microcosm of what people will see from the student section at the game.
“I think it’s going to be crazy,” Browell said. “It’s going to be the best student section we’ve seen at any of the games.”
Anagnost had similar praise for what the student section of Panther will look like compared to the more local contingency of Wake Forest. Anagnost said she and many others would have done whatever they could to get to the game, even if they weren’t one of the students who got a ticket.
“I knew if I wasn’t going to get a ticket here, there was a car I was going to take there,” Anagnost said. “It won’t be just us doing it either.”
The drive to Charlotte is not trivial – it takes over seven hours and nearly 450 miles in distance. But the supporters do not seem discouraged by the drive or the neutral stadium. And according to Stephens, they’ll do whatever they can to create an atmosphere rivaling Heinz Field on a Saturday.
“I lost my voice pretty much every football game, and I’m going to start again,” Stephens said. “Even though I am sick after waiting here for 14 hours, I will still scream.”