In a Bizarre Move Pitt Names Football's Head Coaching Position After Donor and His Graduating Class


Pitt Football announced that alumnus Chris Bickell, who graduated from Pitt in 1997, donated $20 million to the program.  This is single biggest donation in the program’s history.  He seemingly had one requirement.  That the head coaching position be permanently named the “Chris Bickell ’97 Head Football Coach.” 

When we started this thing, I told you we were going to be opinionated.  We were going to offer takes that maybe weren’t always the popular opinion.  Potentially we would create controversy.  So here we go.

This is such a weird move to me.

I don’t know anything about Chris Bickell.  I imagine if he is willing to donate $20 million to anyone, or anything, he is a good person with a giving heart.  He is also the CEO of a successful company, WellHive, which helps military veterans find health insurance.  Overall, he sounds like a great guy just giving back to his school.

Also, I will full heartedly admit I am jealous of the fact that he has that type of money to give away. However, is this not ultimately such an ego boost move?  To have a head coaching position for a football team named after you when you weren’t even a player there has a 'living vicariously' feel to it.

Maybe I am way off base here.  Potentially, Mr. Bickell generously presented the unsolicited check to Pitt Athletic Director, Heather Lyke, and she said, “For that amount we will name anything after you.  Practice facilities, a locker room, hell we’d even name the head coaching position after you.”  And then they both shared a laugh and the idea lingered in the air long enough that it became true. 

I also don’t want to spend another man’s money, but let’s give it a go. Here’s what I would have done.  I would have offered that each student who makes it into the stadium by kickoff and stays until the end of the game receives a free textbook courtesy of Chris Bickell. This would have ensured a packed student section each game.

Or I would have made tickets free for all Pitt alumni for every ACC game this fall.  Bickell would have been thanked by thousands of his fellow alumni and Pitt would have had a great homefield advantage for conference games. Those are the types of things that may actually impact the team on the field.  

I just think naming the head coaching position after someone is such an odd move for the school and Bickell.  Then they include his graduating class and it becomes a mouthful.  I didn’t even know schools named jobs after other people.  Maybe I'm na├»ve and this type of thing happens all of the time.

Again, it’s not my money and yes, I am jealous.  I know the comments will be “well how much did you donate?”  I haven’t, aside from the tens of thousands toward my Pitt business degree and a few hundred after that for season tickets.  So yeah, Bickell is a better man than me.  However, that does not take away from the fact that, overall, it just seems bizarre for the school and the donor.

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