At first glimpse, it might be difficult to see why Pitt's agreement with 93.7 FM The Fan to broadcast its football and men's basketball games matters all that much. After all, the school's games were already on an FM station in the area. But a closer look reveals that there could indeed be a sizable impact from this change.
Ever since The Fan went hit the airwaves several months back, they've looked to make an impact with local sports fans. As the only 24-Hour FM sports talk radio station around, they have an advantage over the competition, primarily because of their strong signal. Despite that edge, The Fan has still been chasing ESPN 1250 in the ratings battle. The Fan is now hoping the acquisition of Pitt's broadcasting rights will vault them to not only the lead over ESPN, but to some of the leading FM stations in town.
If today's shows were any indication, Pitt fans are in for an abundance of Panthers coverage in the future. The station not only had strictly Pitt talk all day long, the talk shows all featured interviews (or replays) with a boatload of Pitt personalities. From former greats such as Dan Marino and Jackie Sherrill to current coaches Jamie Dixon and Dave Wannstedt to current players such as Brad Wanamaker, Gary McGhee and Gilbert Brown, The Fan covered all the bases.
But again, why exactly should this matter to Pitt fans?
For starters, and perhaps most importantly, Pitt's teams will get significantly more coverage. I still expect talk to be Steeler- and Penguin-centric during their seasons, but Pitt should get its fair share of attention. Pitt should get an even larger boost during this time of year when the Pirates are the only team in season and stations are desperate for other things to talk about. And because Pitt's are the only games being carried on The Fan, you can bet that they'll make covering the Panthers an even bigger priority.
And the men's basketball and football programs won't be the only ones to benefit. Pitt's baseball and women's basketball teams have both been ranked in the past two seasons and are on the rise, despite the women's down season in 2009. These two sports have traditionally received virtually no coverage elsewhere, despite their recent successes. There probably won't be an abundance of talk about these programs, but they will likely be mentioned a bit more when they're performing well.
Additionally, the station has already promised a variety of anciliary programming, including shows with head coaches Jamie Dixon and Dave Wannstedt and pre- and post-game shows. I would also expect a limited amount of other special programming for big events such as press conferences, recruiting specials, etc.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's parternship with The Fan could also play into things as well. The paper does a decent job of covering Pitt in season, but could add more stories and blog updates during the offseason. I don't know if this agreement will trickle down that far, but it could.
While this is all good news for Pitt fans, they'll need to do their part. One of the reasons why Pitt talk can sometimes rarely be heard is that whenever hosts bring it up, fans don't participate nearly as much as they do for the pro teams. The Fan's number one goal is not pleasing Pitt fans, it's winning the ratings wars. If fans don't tune in to the shows, The Fan will ultimately provide less coverage.
But the bottom line is that this could be a very good deal for Pitt fans in the end.