July 2, 2013
Enrollment: 28,766 (18,427 undergrad)
President: Chancellor Mark Nordenberg
Athletic Director: Steve Pederson
School Colors: Blue and Gold
Stadium: Heinz Field (shared with the NFL’s Steelers)
Watering hole you must visit: Any Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh
Restaurant you must visit: LeMont – best view of the city
Things to see while there: Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning, Mt. Washington, Kennywood Park
Greatest former athletes: Football players Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, Joe Schmidt, Marshall Goldberg, Bill Fralic, Hugh Green, Mark May, Chris Doleman, Russ Grimm, Curtis Martin, Rickey Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, Darrelle Revis; men’s basketball players Don Hennon, Charles Smith, Billy Knight, Brandin Knight, Charley Hyatt, DeJuan Blair; women’s basketball player Shavonte Zellous; track Olympians Roger Kingdom, John Woodruff, Herb Douglas, Trecia-Kaye Smith.
Greatest sports accomplishments: Nine national championships in football, most recent in 1976; Tony Dorsett setting NCAA career rushing record and winning Heisman Trophy in 1976; eight Pro Football Hall of Famers; 1929-30 Helms Foundation Men’s Basketball National Champions; 11 men’s basketball NCAA Tournaments in past 12 seasons; Olympic track Gold Medal performances by Pitt’s John Woodruff (1936), Roger Kingdom (1984 and 1988); NCAA women’s individual track championships by Trecia-Kaye Smith (seven NCAA titles) and Najuma Fletcher (two).
Former football royalty
Pittsburgh has lingered in the margins of college football for the past couple decades, but the Panthers carved out quite a resume in the 20th century, including nine national championships. Eight came between 1915-’37.
The first football game played by a team representing Pitt was in 1889 (when the school was known as the Western University of Pennsylvania).
Like Georgia Tech, Pitt can brag about famous former coaches. Glenn Pop Warner coached the Panthers from 1915-’23, and helmed three national championship teams (’15, ’16 and ’18) – all shared with at least one other program.
Tech, in fact, interrupted what would have been four straight title runs when the Jackets claimed the ’17 crown unanimously (as Pitt went 10-0).
The Panthers not only won the championship in ’18, but gained a measure of revenge in beating Georgia Tech and coach John Heisman 32-0 in what at the time was perhaps the biggest inter-sectional game in college football history. That was an odd fall by any measure, as World War I depleted rosters and canceled many games. Pitt (4-1) and Michigan (5-0) split national titles that fall.
The first live radio broadcast of a college football game originated at Pittsburgh’s old Forbes Field in 1921, when the Panthers beat West Virginia 21-13
One of Warner’s former players, Jock Sutherland, succeeded Pop and with him in charge from ’24-’38 the Panthers captured five more national titles (’29, ’31, ’34, ’36 and ’37). Pitt’s last national title came in 1976, when Dorsett won the Heisman Trophy and Johnny Majors was head coach.
Pitt’s most common rivals have been West Virginia (104 meetings) and Penn State (96). PSU has been off the schedule since 2001, however, and West Virginia fell off the schedule following the 2011 season when WVU left the Big East for the Big 12 for the ’12 season.
Fellow ACC newcomers Syracuse (68 meetings) and Notre Dame (67) will remain on future schedules.
Although Pitt will be in the Coastal Division with Tech while Syracuse will be in the Atlantic, the schools are slated to continue playing every season (as they have since 1955) as permanent cross-over rivals in the ACC.
The Panthers will waste no time jumping into their new conference; their season opener will be Labor Day night, at home, against defending ACC champion Florida State.
A view from up close
Pitt color commentator Pat Bostick played quarterback for the Panthers from 2007-’10, and has worked in the athletic department since ’11. He knows a thing or two about the way things work up there.
Q: Is there genuine excitement among fans about joining the ACC, or are fans taking a wait-and-see approach?
Bostick: “I think there’s genuine excitement. From a football perspective, and that is going to be the most immediate transfer, the quality of opponent that you’re going to see week in and week out is a step up and that’s what fans want to see. They’re excited about seeing their team play against Florida State, Georgia Tech . . .
“From a basketball perspective, I’d be lying if I didn’t say our fans love the Big East, but there is an equal amount of excitement about how the ACC has the chance to be the best basketball conference that has ever existed with Pitt, Syracuse, Notre Dame and what Louisville (2014) will add down the line. The fans of our Olympic sports are excited, too, about stepping up.”
Q: What are the other upsides to joining the ACC?
Bostick: “Of long-term importance to the athletic department and moving forward with the [ACC’s new] Grant of Rights . . . the stability is huge because everybody is trying to settle their long-term plans and be in a stable situation.
“The Grant of Rights has provided the ability to look five to 10 years down the road and plan. You always had your antennae up [regarding a possible conference move] and you still do, but that is probably one of the most important facets.
“Also, the academic prestige of all these schools. Many ACC schools are in the top percentile in many [academic] metrics. Our professors and faculty have already worked with various faculty and staff at some of these other schools.”
Q: Which Big East rivalries are Pitt fans most likely to miss?
Bostick: “West Virginia . . . I think our fans, that’s one of the traditional rivals that Pitt played for such a long time. That certainly is at the top of the list of rivalries that have gone by the way side.
“A few I don’t know if our fans will miss. There were some high stakes with Cincinnati in recent years, but I think you make up for that with [the return of] old Big East rivals in Virginia Tech and Miami.”
Q: Which road trip do you thinks fans most look forward to making?
Bostick: “Virgina Tech is an old rivalry that our fans became accustomed to, and it’s good to see that coming back. I think they’re exited about getting down to Tobacco Road in North Carolina; it’s new. Virginia is a great place to play. We’ve got a huge alumni base in Atlanta. It’s a huge city with a lot to do. Great Institution.
“If I had to pick a few, a great city like Atlanta, Virginia Tech and Florida State, the cities of Miami and Boston. Great road trips abound.”
Q: Can you name a great Pitt football tradition or two that ACC fans may find interesting?
Bostick: “The lighting of the Cathedral of Learning to signify a Pitt victory in football is one of my favorites. They light up about the top eighth of the building, and you can see it from everywhere. That’s special.
“Also, it’s relatively new but the crowd singing, “Sweet Caroline,” with, “Let’s Go Pitt!” incorporated has become one of my favorites. The Pitt twist on it is pretty cool.”
Q: Could Pitt’s entry into the ACC have been scripted any better than with a home game against defending champion Florida State on Labor Day night?
Bostick: “Ticket sales have been at a rate not seen in recent memory. With FSU, Virginia, Notre Dame, Miami, North Carolina, Old Dominion and New Mexico – that’s the kind of home schedule that you want to see. New Mexico is coached by Bob Davies, an old Pitt guy. Every school is well regarded on many levels. This is something new, and there’s an expectation that this is going to be big time.