Know your foe: Pittsburgh Football 2010

Syracuse now enters the toughest stretch of the season.  The first opponent is Pitt at the dome this week.  But what do you know about those pesky Pittsburgh Panthers?




History: Pitt's one of the oldest schools in the country, being founded all the way back in 1787 by Hugh Henry Breckenridge as the Pittsburgh Academy, which makes it the oldest college west of the Alleghenys.  In 1819 the school expanded and became known as the Western University of Pennsylvania, and the trustees wanted it to be a satellite school of Penn.  The school kept growing and they had to move into bigger and bigger buildings.


A school wouldn't be a school without a history of being burnt.  And in 1845 the school burned down.  After the county courthouse burned down in the 1880s the school moved out of downtown to the North Side, where it built a campus on Observatory Hill near the Allegheny Observatory, where it built two new buildings: the Science Hall and the Main Hall.  In 1908, in order to get rid of confusion with Penn, the state legislature changed the school's name to the University of Pittsburgh.  Soon, the campus began scattering itself all over the city because its location on the North Side was too small.  In 1907 they moved to a 43 acre campus in Oakland, where they still stand. 


There were several times when the state wanted the school to abandon its liberal arts emphasis and begin a more technical one, but they were fought off.  In 1920, the school wanted to build a "gothic revival" on campus, and thus was born the iconic Cathedral of Learning, which puts Pitt on the map.  They also built a chapel and dedicated it to the Heinz family.  In 1955, Jonas Salik developed the polio vaccine at Pitt, and in 1966, Pitt was designated a "state-related" school.

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The "steel city."  The confluence of the Allegheney and Monongahela Rivers form the Ohio River here, and it's home to arguably the greatest NFL franchise of all time: the Pittsburgh Steelers (I'm a Jets fan).  The city was named after William Pitt and grew as a boatbuilding town for settlers going to Ohio.  After the War of 1812, Pittsburgh began manufacturing stuff like iron and brass.  In 1816, Pittsburgh became a city.  Andrew Carnegie began steel production here in 1875 and by 1911 Pittsburgh was the 8th largest city in the country.  The city was a steel mecca until 1980 when mass layoffs closed down all the plants.  Still, Pittsburgh is surprisingly going strong for a city in its part of the country, with healthcare, tourism, and robotics jobs all calling Pittsburgh home.  It even managed to survive the current recession.


Academics: There are 18k undergrads and 10k+ grads at Pitt, and the school is currently ranked 64th in the nation by US News.  The school is one of only three Big East schools, including basketball schools, that is a member of the AAU and does a lot of biomedical research.  The philosophy program is regarded as top-notch, and in 2006 the institute of Nanoscience was ranked 2nd in the nation.  The med school is also well renowned.  Pitt is well known for its Outside the Classroom Curriculum which helps students become better people in general.  Pitt takes international relations seriously, and has "nationality rooms" in the Cathedral of Learning.  Pitt is one of the leading producers of Peace Corps volunteers.






Notable Alumni: No bosum babes this week, and it's just as fitting because Fred Rogers, who represents everything that is wholesome, went to Pitt.  That is, of course, unless you count someone's wife as a bosum babe.  In this case, it's Beth Otrosky, who married Howard Stern.  Bill Cullen, the host of the original The Price is Right, went to Pitt.  Dancer Gene Kelly is an alum.  In business, the entire Mellon family is connected to Pitt, even though their name is on a different school in Pittsburgh.  Tung Chao Yung, who owns the world's biggest boat, went to Pitt.  Roscoe Robinson, the first African-American four-star general, is a Pitt alum.  In politics, Pitt produced people everywhere from Rick Santorum to John Murtha.  And 2008 cult candidate Ron Paul went there, although he represents Tejas.  And of course, is Jonas Salik, inventor of the polio vaccine.  The inventor of the MRI and discoverer of the cycstic fibrosis gene are Pitt alums.




Logo, colors, mascot, fightsong, and all that junk: Pitt's colors have always been blue and gold (except in 1945 when they tried a red and white combo), and their gold is actually a legit gold, not yellow (although the script logo they used from 1973 to 1997 had more of a yellowish gold).  Pitt's official colors are "old gold and blue," a combination officially that is only shared, perhaps fittingly, with West Virginia.

Pitt's mascot was the Panthers since 1909, when the students and alumni picked the Panther to be the mascot.  The panther was considered to be the most formidable creature indigenous to Pittsburgh (although the term "Panther" really refers to collectively the lion, tiger, leopard and jaguar); the students at the time were thinking of the cougar, which was gold in color and resembled the school's gold.  While Pitt is the first school to have adopted the panther as a mascot, there are currently a whopping 52 schools using the Panther as its mascot.  20 of those schools are called "Davenport University" and three of them, including Pitt, are part of the University of Pittsburgh system.  Pitt is the only I-A school to use the Panther as a mascot.  Other Division I Panthers include Eastern Illinois, Georgia State, High Point, Prairie View A&M, and Northern Iowa.  Notable schools outside D-I that have the Panther include Adelphi, Chapman, Middlebury, SUNY Purchase, and Virginia Union.




Similar to Tommy Trojan, Pitt erected panther statues all around campus to serve as the official mascot of the university; there are a total of 20.  The costumed mascot is named Roc, after Steve "The Rock" Petro, a former football player.


The first helmet was used until 1965, then for the next two years they used the second one.  The gold helmets were in place until 1972, and then entered the script logo, which had a series of helmets until 1997.  The panther logo was used until 2005, when the current design began use.

"Hail to Pitt" was written in 1910 by George M. Kirk and Lester Milton Taylor, who used it in a theater production.  Kirk was a cheerleader at the time, and pushed the song to be used for football games.  He succeeded.  The lyrics are as follows:

Down in Smokytown, in Pennsylvania,
In Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh,
We've a University we're all proud of,
Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh.
She stands a mighty fortress 'neath her colors bright,
Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh,
When forth she goes to battle 'gainst a stubborn foe
This song will upward go:
Hail to Pitt, hail to Pitt every loyal son!
Hail to Pitt, hail to Pitt 'til the victory is won!
The gold and blue shall wave forever
On high through fair and stormy weather;
We'll sing her praises far and wide
Until the end of time!
Hooperay, hooperay for dear old U-N-I;
We'll give a grand old alleghenee, genac, genac, genac
We'll wave and cheer for many a year
And sing our songs out loud and clear
For our university.

The school also has an official university yell:


The Pitt Band began in 1904.  The band is first announced by the trumpets, and then a drumline performs and all the band members go onto the field, forming a block.  They then play various Pitt songs and the national anthem, eventually folding out into the Pitt logo.

Athletics: Pitt was a member of the Eastern Intercollegiate League, which became the Eastern Eight in 1978 (this was the forerunner to the Atlantic 10).  Pitt joined the Big East in 1982.  In football, they were an independent from 1890 to 1990, when they joined the Big East.




Pitt played football since 1890, and the first game was against the Allegheny Athletic Association, when they were asked to play as a substitute team.  The team was led by Bert Smyers.  They only won one game that season, against Geneva College.  In 1903, the school hired Arthur Mosse, who first coached a winless season and then coached an undefeated season.  In 1915, they hired Pop Warner, and claimed a national title that year.  He coached until 1923, and Jock Southerland replaced him, and won five claimed national titles.  However, in 1937, Pitt deemphisized athletics which proved detrimental to the football program.  Pitt even had eight straight losing seasons in the 1940s, however, this ended in 1955 as John Michelson took over.  Pitt was invited to the 1956 Sugar Bowl, and with Danny Grier, broke the color barrier for southern bowls.  Of course, the biased southern refs gave the game to Georgia Tech.  The 1960s were a continuation of this success.  In the 1970s, they hired Johnny Majors to coach the Panthers, and he brought in Tony Dorsett and won the 1976 national title, the second consensus title for Pitt and the ninth claimed by the school. 


Pitt claims nine titles (1915, 1916, 1918, 1929, 1931, 1934, 1936, 1937, and 1976) however only the last two are recognized as consensus titles.  Pitt's bowl history includes 26 bowls, including four Rose Bowls (1927, 1929, 1932, and 1936), three Sugar Bowls (1955, 1976*, and 1981), three Gator Bowls (1956, 1977, and 1980), four Fiesta Bowls (1973, 1979, 1983, and 2004), three Sun Bowls (1975, 1989, and 2008), two Tangerine Bowls (1978 and 2001), the 1982 Cotton Bowl, the 1987 Bluebonnet Bowl, the 1997 Liberty Bowl, the 2000 Insight Bowl, and the two Continental Tire/Mineke Bowls (2003 and 2009).  The 1976 Sugar Bowl was for the national title when they beat Georgia 27-3.  Pitt has never played in an Orange Bowl.  Tony Dorsett won the Heisman for Pitt, and six players, including Dorsett, are in the pro football Hall of Fame (Dan Marino, Mike Ditka, Rus Grimm, Rickey Jackson, and Joe Schmidt).  Other famous football alumni include Ruben Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Darelle Revis, Marty Schottenheimer, and Curtis Martin.

Pitt played its games at Pitt Stadium for many years before moving to Three Rivers Stadium and currently Heinz Field.

Pitt began playing basketball in 1905.  In 1922 they hired Henry "Doc" Carlson to coach the team and won two Helms titles under his leadership.  Carlson is credited as the first head coach to take an eastern team out west to face Big Ten schools (the Big Ten was considered the best hoops conference back then).  Pitt played Fordham in the first televised game at Madison Square Garden, and Carlson also led Pitt to its only Final Four, in 1941.  Speaking of which, Pitt's basketball resume includes four Eastern Intercollegiate Conference titles (1933, 1934, 1935, and 1937), two Eastern 8 titles (1987 and 1988), three Big East titles (2002-2004), two Eastern 8 Tournament titles (1981 and 1982), two Big East Tournament titles (2003 and 2008), 22 NCAA tournament appearances (1941, 1957, 1958, 1963, 1974, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1987-1989,  1991, 1993, and every year since 2002), six Sweet Sixteens (1941, 1974, 2002-2004, 2007, and 2009), 3 Elite Eights (1941, 1974, 2009) and the 1941 Final Four.  They went to 8 NITs as well.  Notable alumni include Charles Smith, Don Hennon, Billy Knight, Charley Hyatt, and Brandin Knight.  Pitt plays at the Petersen Events Center, which features the dreaded Oakland Zoo.

Pitt does not have a lacrosse team, sadly.

Rival: Pitt began playing Penn State in football in 1893, making it one of the oldest contests, and the rivalry is actually pretty close compared to others, as Penn State leads it 50-42-4.  Pitt dominated the first half of the 20th century.  In fact, Jock Sutherland never lost to Penn State.  In the latter half, Penn State began an era of dominance, especially after Joe Paterno took the helm in Happy Valley.  Penn State won the first six meetings, and Pitt won the most recent contest.  The game had national title implications in the 70s and 80s.  However, this series could only last so long as Pitt and Penn State could remain independents.  With Pitt joining the Big East and Penn State joining the Big Ten, the two schools could never agree on a continuation of the series; they only played four times since 1990.  Rumors spread around Pitt that Paterno wouldn't continue the series if Pitt couldn't make concessions to Penn State.  Since the series discontinued, Pitt began a renewed focus on its annual games with.....

....West Virginia.  In all other sports, the Mountaineers were Pitt's biggest rivals, especially in Basketball, and the WVU fans' poor reputation didn't start last year.  It was around since the 40s, when WVU fans dumped buckets of water on the Pitt coaching staff.  There will be a more in-depth writeup of the Backyard Brawl next week.

Outlook: This should be an interesting test for Syracuse, and that test will be containing Dion Lewis.  Pitt has shown itself to be lackluster so far this year, losing to Miami and Notre Dame, especially on defense.  Look for Delone Carter to exploit this.  If Dion Lewis is contained, Syracuse should cruise to a win.  But that's not a given and Dion Lewis can - and will - run 50+ yards.  It'll be a high scoring a fair, and I do fear that Pitt will win.  But I certainly hope my fears are wrong.  Go Orange!



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