Pitt football receives record donation of $2 million – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pitt’s football program has been trending up under coach Pat Narduzzi as he enters his third season, and now it’s $2 million richer.

The school announced on Thursday morning it has received the single largest donation to the Pitt Football Championship Fund on behalf of Steven and Kathy Guttman. The fund “is used to enhance such critical areas as the student-athlete experience, facilities, recruiting and advancing technology,” according to Pitt’s statement.

“We are delighted to make this commitment to the Pitt Football Championship Fund,” Steven Guttman, a 1968 Pitt graduate who is founder and chairman of UOVO Fine Art Storage, said in the release. “The program’s visible growth under Coach Narduzzi’s leadership is reason for tremendous optimism moving forward. It is our hope that this commitment will not only serve to help the Panthers continue that growth, but also motivate others to support their quest as well.”

Athletic director Heather Lyke, hired last month, thanked the Guttman family. So, too, did Narduzzi, embroiled in the college football arms race like every other program in the premier conferences of the Football Bowl Subdivision.

“Their belief and support is so important in helping us achieve the goals we have for our program, both on and off the field,” he said of the donation. “We thank them not only for this historic commitment, but also for their longtime loyalty and love of the University of Pittsburgh and the Pitt football program.”

Lyke came to Pitt about a month ago with fundraising ability a highlight on her resume. Earlier this year — just a few weeks before leaving her athletic director post there for Pitt — Eastern Michigan received a $6 million gift to be put toward a new athletic facility. That’s the largest cash donation in school history.

Whereas that contribution would benefit all 21 of Eastern Michigan’s athletic teams, the Guttman family’s commitment to Pitt is football-centric, with Lyke noting that it “underscores how vital philanthropic support is to our competitive success.”

When Lyke was announced as Pitt’s athletic director March 20, she and chancellor Patrick Gallagher spoke of the importance of fundraising in her role.

“I would say that everybody in the athletic department, everybody at our university — we’re all fundraisers,” Lyke said then. “We’re all talking about the extraordinary things that are happening on campus, both academically and athletically. In order to do those extraordinary things and compete at a certain level, you need additional resources. And I love to build those relationships, talk about what we’re doing, and it’s really a result of what the coaches and athletes are doing and sharing that knowledge.”

Lyke’s predecessor, Scott Barnes, also entered his tenure with a strong reputation for fundraising. When he released his long-term “strategic plan” for the athletic department in June, one of the primary goals was to “Strengthen our resource-base in order to facilitate championship level success across the athletic department.”

The focus in that area was to be placed on major gifts, annual giving and endowment/planned gifts.

“The fundraising piece is important to us,” Gallagher said at Lyke’s first news conference. “It’s an area where I’ve felt consistently that we can do much better than we’ve done. We have the fanbase that supports these programs; they want to contribute and make a difference.”

Brian Batko: bbatko@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrianBatko.

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