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As athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh, Steve Pederson has presided over many landmark moments and achievements. This past year, however, proved to be one of the most celebrated in Pitt's long and accomplished history as the Panthers began competition in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Joining one of America's elite conferences served as the culmination of a vision Pederson conceived when he first arrived at Pitt in 1996. At that time, he was taking over an athletic department that was perhaps at its lowest end both competitively and from an infrastructure standpoint.
Fast forward 18 years and Pitt is now enjoying an impressive period of growth and accomplishment.
By any athletic or academic measure, the Panthers have experienced an energized renewal under Pederson's watch. Aged facilities have been replaced by state-of-the-art training and competition venues. Championship banners have been hung as have a record number of diplomas. Trophy cases are expanding and student-athlete grade point averages are rising.
ACC membership reinforced Pitt's respected stature in the world of intercollegiate athletics. Rather than pausing in satisfaction, Pederson has the Panthers aiming for even greater heights in the future.
In its inaugural ACC campaign, Pitt made its presence strongly felt with an array of impressive accomplishments.
Pitt opened the ACC's football bowl season with a stirring 30-27 victory over Mid-American Conference champion Bowling Green in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. The game served as a promising glimpse of the program's future as freshmen scored every single point for the Panthers.
Senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald became one of the most decorated players in Pitt football history. The unanimous All-American won four prominent national awards: the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award. He was also named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Men's basketball continued its impressive postseason run by earning its 12th NCAA Tournament invitation in the past 13 seasons. Junior guard Cameron Wright was named the 2014 recipient of the prestigious Skip Prosser Award, presented to the ACC's top men's basketball scholar-athlete.
Pitt was one of just 13 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools to win a bowl game and receive an invitation to play in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament during the 2013-14 academic year. With 123 institutions competing at the FBS level in 2013-14, only 10.5% of the membership can claim this accomplishment.
Pitt won its first ACC championship in any sport when wrestling won the league's dual meet title with a perfect 6-0 mark.
Men's track and field finished 14th nationally at the NCAA Indoor Championships. At the historic Penn Relays, the men's outdoor 4x400 relay team won the Championship of America. It was the first time in 75 years the Panthers captured this competitive and prestigious race.
Three Pitt senior student-athletes--Ashley Corum (track and field), Jocelyn Lu (tennis) and Katie O'Rourke (gymnastics)--were honored as 2014 ACC Postgraduate Scholars.
These accomplishments reflect one of Pederson's favorite sayings about the Pitt student-athlete experience: "You really can have it all at the University of Pittsburgh."
"A young person who comes to Pitt can compete at the very highest levels and achieve academically, athletically and personally," Pederson said. "Through hard work and commitment, you can make your biggest dreams a reality at Pitt."
Pederson is dedicated to ensuring Pitt Athletics remains a direct reflection of the University of Pittsburgh and its guiding values of education, commitment and mentoring. "We will work hard to win," Pederson said. "But we will work harder to win the right way. We want Pitt Athletics to reflect the very best attributes of this great university and its educational mission."
Using those values as a foundation, Pitt Athletics under his watch continues to thrive and grow. Pederson is dedicated to giving Pitt student-athletes the best overall experience possible through enhanced academic, athletic and personal growth opportunities.
Each of Pitt's 19 intercollegiate athletic programs met or surpassed the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate (APR) standards during the most recent evaluation period. Five of Pitt's programs achieved their ¬¬¬the third time in four years with a top-10 percentile ranking.
This past year, 333 Pitt student-athletes were honored for achieving a grade point average of at least 3.0 during the 2013 spring or fall semesters. Twenty-two student-athletes earned a 4.0.
In addition to academics, Pitt continues to develop well-rounded student-athletes through the Cathy and John Pelusi Family Life Skills Program. The Panthers annually contribute nearly 3,000 hours of charitable work for various organizations in Western Pennsylvania and beyond.
Pederson ensured the Panthers would be one of the finest outfitted programs in the country through an athletics apparel partnership with NIKE. Each of Pitt's 19 intercollegiate sports teams wear NIKE footwear, uniforms, practice gear and equipment. The long-term agreement outfits more than 450 Pitt student-athletes.
Pitt has raised a five-year record of more than $38 million in donations to the Panther Club annual fund, which subsidizes student-athlete scholarships. The record total has been achieved despite the recent challenging economic times that all supporters of collegiate athletics face. Pitt Athletics also surpassed its $150 million goal in the university's Building Our Future Together campaign, which provides valuable resources for endowments, capital improvements and athletic scholarships.
The Panthers entered ACC competition with a newly strengthened set of home facilities, including the Petersen Sports Complex, a sparkling home for baseball, softball and men's and women's soccer. Built on 12 acres at the peak of upper campus, the facility not only gives Pitt student-athletes nationally competitive facilities, but it also has rejuvenated a previously untapped area of land that neighbors the university.
With Chancellor Emeritus Mark Nordenberg, Pederson helped shape the vision of the Petersen Events Center, the state-of-the-art convocation center that dramatically revolutionized Pitt's campus upon its opening in 2002. The Events Center is considered one of the finest college basketball venues in the country and has also been a major asset for student life, providing outstanding recreational facilities and a fitting place for graduation ceremonies.
Pederson was at the forefront of the football program's move into the UPMC Sports Performance Complex, which included the forging of a unique relationship between UPMC, a professional sports franchise and college athletic program. He personally oversaw the design and layout of the Panthers' Duratz Athletic Complex, which houses Pitt's football offices and training areas. It has been described as the finest facility for a college football program in the country.
Pitt football gained a new national-caliber home stadium in Heinz Field under Pederson's watch in 2001. The Panthers own a prominent presence at the stadium with their logos on the seating, gates and signage. Pederson additionally initiated the renaming of Martindale Street to Tony Dorsett Drive to further enhance Pitt's identity on the North Shore.
Over the course of one decade, Pitt either built new venues or significantly renovated existing facilities for 17 of its 19 programs, making it one of the most dramatic infrastructure enhancements in all of college sports.
On the media front, Pederson forged a partnership with CBS Radio Pittsburgh, providing Pitt football and basketball with a 50,000-watt flagship home in Sportsradio 93.7 The Fan. Women's basketball also has a strong radio home in 1320 WJAS-AM, which provides live play-by-play action of each regular-season and postseason game. It is the first time the women's program has enjoyed such comprehensive coverage.
The 2014-15 academic year marks the eighth year of Pederson's second tour at Pitt. During his initial tenure (1996-2002), Pederson hired six Big East Conference Coach of the Year honorees (football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, track and field and volleyball), an unprecedented achievement by a Big East athletic director. The Panthers' highest-profile sports--football and men's basketball--experienced impressive revivals. After going to just one postseason game during the 1990s, Pitt football has gone bowling 11 of the past 14 years. The men's basketball program has become one of the country's most consistent winners, capturing six Big East titles and advancing to 12 NCAA Tournaments from 2002-14.
During his five years at Nebraska (2002-07), Pederson was also at the forefront of significant facilities construction, including a $51 million expansion to Memorial Stadium. The project resulted in new football facilities as well as new strength, sports medicine and indoor facilities for baseball, softball, soccer and sand volleyball. Additionally, the women's volleyball, gymnastics and rifle teams received a new office complex.
Nebraska achieved at exceptional levels athletically and academically during his time in Lincoln. In 2006-07, the Cornhuskers won the national championship in women's volleyball, while the football team won the 2006 Big 12 North title and advanced to its first New Year's Day bowl game since 2001. Overall, 15 Nebraska teams earned NCAA invitations. Academically, Nebraska earned a school-record 94% graduation rate, the highest in the Big 12 as Cornhusker student-athletes achieved a combined 3.0 grade point average during the 2007 spring semester.
In addition to his duties as athletic director at Pitt, Pederson serves on the board for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation in Pittsburgh as well as the Pittsburgh Symphony.
He and his wife Tami have three children: Mark, Kari and Kristin. Mark and his wife Brooke gave Steve and Tami their first grandchild, Claire, in October 2012. Kari is married to Jim Miketo.
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