|Pitt's Heinz Field is shared with the Steelers, who draw quite well.|
This was a game between two contenders for the ACC's northern division and only 40,254 people showed up. Heinz, where the Steelers also play, holds 65,500. The stadium looked emptier than it was because the cameras are on the home side, but I'd say the 40,000 estimate was extremely generous.
Two problems here: Pitt doesn't draw well in general; Tech is not an interesting opponent for the people of Pittsburgh. It ranks, in fact, below Ball State, Youngstown State and Buffalo in numbers of fans drawn, according to this story on Pitt's attendance.
Pitt's attendance at home has rarely exceeded 50,000 in the past quarter century (36 times in 24 years, despite having good teams and attractive opponents). Pittsburgh, like Miami, also of the ACC, is a pro football town and there isn't much room for college teams, even good ones. I remember a very good Tech team playing at one-loss Miami a few years and noise echoed off the empty stands. It was truly embarrassing and I wondered how in the world Miami recruited.
Virginia Tech, in the vernacular, travels well, but it didn't for this Thursday night game, 400 miles from Blacksburg. The week before, Tech's stadium was rocking for a Thursday game, as it generally does for those. Tech is the unofficial king of ESPN's Thursday night football and actually began its ascent some years ago because of that exposure. It is a celebration for Tech, a cause for despair for a team like Pitt. Thursday football, by the way, is a creation strictly for the benefit of TV. Tuesday football, which often features MAC teams made for TV, is another travesty where stadiums really are near empty.
As difficult as this must be for the Panthers, if you want to see a truly desperate situation, travel to Durham to watch Duke play before tiny crowds in a beautiful and newly-renovated stadium with a competitive team (unusual in Duke history). In recent years, I've bought tickets to games against Virginia (among others) at Wallace Wade Stadium for $5 (end zone) and promptly moved to the nearly vacant stands near the visitors' 50-yard-line. $5 for bigtime college football is ... well, sad.
'Course, if you want cheap, travel up to Lexington and watch a good Washington & Lee team play for free. No charge at all. And the hot dogs are $2.
(Photo, which is not of the Tech game: unfairweatherfan.com)