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The Pittsburgh Panthers football team is the interscholastic football team of the University of Pittsburghmarker, often referred to as "Pitt". Traditionally the most popular sport at the university, Pitt has played at highest level of american football competition, now classified as the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, since its first sanctioned intercollegiate game in 1890.

Pitt has claimed nine National Championships, is among the top 20 college football programs in terms of all-time wins, and its teams have featured many coaches and players notable throughout the history of college football, including, among all schools, the eleventh most College Football Hall of Famemarker inductees and the eighth most consensus All-Americans.

An independent for much of its history, Pitt has competed as a member of the Big East Conference since 1991. The Panthers are currently coached by Dave Wannstedt, utilize the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Performance Complexmarker as their practice facility, and play home games at Heinz Fieldmarker.


The Early Years (1889–1902)

The 1900 team, competing when the university was still known as WUP, went 5-4 shutting out opponents four times under head coach Dr. M.
Roy Jackson
The origins of football at the University of Pittsburgh began In the fall of 1889 when the school was still known as the Western University of Pennsylvania, often referred to as WUP, and was located in what is today the city of Pittsburgh'smarker North Side. A 130 pound WUP student, Bert Smyers, along with senior student John Scott, assembled a football team that year which was comprised of only three of the players that had previously witnessed the sport. The team played in one informal game, a loss against Shady Side Academymarker, in which Smyers made himself quarterback and Scott played center. In preparation for the following year, the first season of football officially recognized by the university, Smyers and his teammates took up a collection and purchased a football for practices and games, however players were responsible for their own uniforms. In Smyers' case, his uniform was pieced together by his mother and sister. The first official game for the University was held on October 11, 1890 when the Allegheny Athletic Association's opponent, Shadyside Academy, failed to appear for its game at Exposition Parkmarker. Allegheny A.A. called Smyers who brought the WUP team as a replacement. In an inglorious start to Pitt football history, WUP was defeated 38-0. Smyers' team next faced Washington and Jefferson College, losing 32-0, but closed out its inaugural three game season with the university's first win, a 10-4 victory over Geneva Collegemarker.

The following season saw the university collect more losses on route to a 2-5 record which included a 40-6 loss during which Smyers suffered a broken nose against Washington and Jefferson, a school that would become one of WUPs fiercest early rivals. The WUP team did record the school's first shutout with a 6-0 win over Geneva, as well as the school's first blowout in a 54-0 win over Western Pennsylvania Medical Collegemarker who, interestingly, became affiliated with WUP in 1892 and later became the university's medical school when they merged in 1908. Perhaps the most important development for the second season of football was Smyers recruitment of Joeseph Trees from Normal University of Pennsylvaniamarker. The 210 pound Trees became WUP's first subsidized athlete and, later in life, made millions in the oil industry and became an important benefactor for the University and athletic department. Today, Trees Hallmarker, an athletic facility on the University of Pittsburgh's main campus in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, bears his name.

The first winning record for the university came in the third season of competition in 1892, when the team posted a 4-2 record. The following season in 1893, the team had its first official coach, Anson F. Harrold, who led the team to relatively non-notable 1-4 season. However, that year did see the first game against Penn State, thus originating of one of the longest and fiercest rivalries for both schools. WUP was shutout by State in that game, which was played in Bellefonte, PAmarker. Likewise in 1895, the school suffered a 1-6 season under coach J.P. Linn, but played in the first edition of the Backyard Brawl, losing to West Virginia 0-8 in Wheeling, WVmarker.

The university did not see another winning season until Fred Robinson led WUP to a 5-2-1 record in 1898. Robinson followed that up with a 3-1-1 record in 1899 giving the school its first back-to-back winning seasons. This was followed by two more winning seasons in a row, including a record seven win season in 1901 under coach Wilbur Hockensmith. That season, Hockensmith also led the school to its first victory over West Virginia, a 12-0 shutout.

Rise to Power (1903–1914)

In the early years of the Twentieth Century, interest in college football grew both in Pittsburgh and elsewhere. During this time Arthur St. L. Mosse was hired away from the University of Kansasmarker, and with him brought several of his players. Thompson also imported additional players from other Western Pennsylvania colleges. The 1903 season, the first under Mosse, was the university's first winless season at 0-9-1.The University of Pittsburgh's football media guide does not list a 10-6 loss to Duquesne Universitymarker for the 1903 season, although it appears in the Duquesne football media guide and on College Football Data Warehouse. Therefore, the Pitt football media guide lists the record for the 1903 season as 0-8-1, and Mosse's overall record at the university as 20-10-1. College Football Data Warehouse, whose numbers are used in this article, lists Mosse's 1903 record as 0-9-1, and his overall Pitt record as 20-11-1.

A Duquesne Football 2008 Media Guide, pg. 45, accessdate=2009-02-18

B 2008 Pitt Football Media Guide, pg. 148, accessdate=2009-02-18

C College Football Data Warehouse: Coaching Records Game by Game: Arthur St. L. "Texas" Mosse: 1903, accessdate=2009-02-18
However, in perhaps one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history, Mosse led WUP to an undefeated 10-0 season, the school's first, in 1904. The 1904 team surrendered only one touchdown on the way to collectively outscoring opponents 406-5. That season also saw the school's first victory over Penn State, a 22-5 rout, as well as a 53-0 shutout of West Virginia.Various sources list the score of the 1904 Penn State win as 24-5, 23-5, and 22-5. The score of 22-5 from the Courant, a monthly student journal of the Western University of Pennsylvania, which is also how the score is listed at College Football Data Warehouse, is used to calculate the total season points scored in the article's text above.

A 2008 Pitt Football Media Guide, pg. 148, accessdate=2009-02-18

B Robert C. Alberts, Pitt: The Story of the University of Pittsburgh 1787–1987, pg. 65, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986, ISBN 0-8229-1550-7, accessdate=2009-02-18

C Courant, Vol. 20, No. 3, Western University of Pennsylvania, pg. 21, date=1904-12, accessdate=2009-02-19

D College Football Data Warehouse: Coaching Records Game by Game: 1904, accessdate=2009-02-18

The success of this period can be partially attributed to actions on the administrative side of the university, led by newly installed chancellor Samuel McCormick who took special interest in athletics at the university. Encouraged by university trustee George Hubberd Clappmarker, the administration more actively engaged in supporting the athletic program during this period in order to promote the university. A football association was formed, the school's first booster organization, whose largest initial contributor was Andrew W. Mellon. The university also obtained a lease of Exposition Parkmarker to give the football team a more stable and permanent home, and its first full season at the park began with the 1904 undefeated team. This undefeated 1904 season was followed by a 10-2 record under Mosse in 1905, as well as six additional winning seasons.

These Mosse coached squads featured team captain Joseph H. Thompson, who was recruited from Geneva College to play for WUP from 1904 to 1906. During his playing years, the university's team compiled a 26-6 record. Thompson graduated from the university in 1905 and continued on with post-graduate work in the School of Lawmarker completing his law degree. However, Thompson had long desired the head coaching position and finally obtained the job in 1908. This was the same year that the university changed its name to the University of Pittsburghmarker, and it soon became known as "Pitt" among fans and students. The following year, in 1909, the school officially adopted the Panther as a mascot. At this time, the school also moved to the Oakland section of Pittsburgh where it remains to this day, and the football team began playing games at Forbes Fieldmarker, starting with the third game of the season against Bucknellmarker on October 16, 1909.
The 1910 team went undefeated and unscored upon, and is considered by many to be the 1910 national champion
Thompson coached at Pitt until 1912, the longest tenure of any coach up until that point, and led the football team to a 30-14-2 record during this period. During his first season in 1908, he was responsible for helping to facilitate the first known use of numbers on the uniforms of football players. The highlight of his coaching tenure was the 1910 season in which Pitt, led by star fullback Tex Richards, went undefeated for the second time in school history. Not only did the 1910 team post a perfect 9-0 record, but it was also unscored upon, collectively outscoring its opponents 282-0, and is considered by many consider to be that season's national champion. Following his coaching stint, Thompson went on to become a highly decorated hero of World War I.

Winning continued under coach Joseph Duff, including an 8-1 record in 1914 in which opponents were collectively outscored 207-38, and the university was well on the way to establishing itself as a regional, if not national, power.

Pop Warner Years (1915–1923)

In 1914, Pitt athletic booster Joseph Trees and athletic director A. R. Hamilton hired Genn Scobey "Pop" Warner, who had previously led Carlisle, Cornellmarker, and Georgia, as Pitt's head coach. Warner had been successful at his previous stops, mentoring the likes of Jim Thorpe, and was known as a innovator of the game who originated the screen pass, single- and double-wing formations, and use of shoulder and thigh pads. His arrival at Pitt gave the program instant national credibility, lifting the perception of the program from more of a regional power to that of a national one.

Warner's impact was immediate. Led by center Robert Peck, Pitt's first First Team All-American, and All-American end James Pat Herron, Warner's first Pitt team in 1915 went 8-0, shutting out five of its opponents, and was trumpeted by football historian Parke H. Davis as that season's national champion. His second season duplicated that success, repeating an 8-0 record while collectively outscoring opponents 255-25, and garnering what is widely regarded as a consensus national championship. The lone scare of the 1916 season occurred at Navy when, following a delay of the team's train heading to Annapolismarker that caused a late arrival, the team overcame several fumbles and eked out a 20-19 victory. The 1916 team was led again by Herron and Peck, now in his last season, as well as All-Americans fullback Andy Hastings and guard "Tiny" Thornhill. Also on that team were Jock Sutherland and H.C. "Doc" Carlson, who both would garner First Team All-American selections while members of the undefeated 1917 team, and go on to become perhaps Pitt's most legendary coaches in football and basketball, respectively. The 1917 team, nicknamed "The Fighting Dentists" because over half the roster became doctors or dentists, finished 10-0 with five shutouts despite losing several players to military service at the outbreak of World War I. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which took the life of former Pitt star Tex Richards, saw the implementation of quarantines that eliminated much of that year's college football season, including five of Pitt's originally schedule contests. All of Pitt's games that year were played in November, including a high profile game played as a War Charities benefit against undefeated, unscored upon, and defending national champion Georgia Tech that was coached by the legendary John Heisman. Pitt swept through its first three games and then dismantled Georgia Tech 32-0 in front of many of the nation's top sports writers including Walter Camp. The final game of the season at Cleveland Naval Reserve resulted in Warner's first loss at Pitt and is one of the most controversial in school history. Warner, along some reporters covering the game, insisted the Pitt team was robbed by the officials who, claiming the official timekeeper's watch was broken, arbitrarily ended the first half before Pitt was able to score and then allowed the Reserves extra time in the fourth quarter to pull ahead 10-9 before calling an end to the game. Despite the loss, the 4-1 Panthers of 1918 were named national champions by several selectors and are widely regarded as consensus national champions for that season.

1919 saw season-ending injuries to several players, and Pitt stumbled to a 6-2-1 record that included another victory over Georgia Tech. However, the Panthers returned to undefeated status during 1920, albeit with ties against Syracuse and undefeated Penn State. The Penn State game ended in a scoreless tie after Pitt star Tommy Davies, who was injured early in the game, returned later to miss a possible game-winning field goal. In 1921 the team's record dipped to 5-3-1, but made history because that year's edition of the Backyard Brawl at Forbes Field became the first college football game broadcast on the radio when Harold W. Arlin announced the 21-13 Pittsburgh victory on KDKAmarker.

Prior to the 1922 season, Warner announced he was leaving Pitt to take the head coaching position at Stanford, but he honored his contract and remained at Pitt through 1923. 1922 resulted in an 8-2 record, and the season ended on a high note when the Panthers took their first cross-country trip, by train, to defeat Stanford, coached by two Pitt assistants sent ahead by Warner, 16-7 in Palo Altomarker. Warner's final season was his worst at Pitt as the Panthers stumbled to a 5-4 record in 1923. However, the Warner era at Pitt closed on a high note with a 20-3 victory over Penn State on November 29.

In all, Warner coached his Pitt teams to 33 straight wins and three national championships (1915, 1916 and 1918). He coached Pittsburgh from 1915 to 1923 to a combined 60-12-4 record. Importantly, Warner helped raise the interest in Pitt football to the point where the university sought to build an on-campus stadium with increased seating capacity that would be dedicated to the football team, and the school began taking steps to secure the necessary land and funds to build Pitt Stadiummarker.

Jock Sutherland Years (1924–1938)

Gibby Welch tied a school record with this 105-yard kickoff return against West Virginia in 1927.
Pitt won the game 40-0.
A natural replacement for Warner was Dr. John Bain "Jock" Sutherland, Warners' former All-American guard on the 1915 and 1916 national championship teams and 1917 undefeated team. A native of Coupar Angusmarker in Scotlandmarker, Sutherland had graduated from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Dentistry, where he later served as faculty. Sutherland had served a tour in the Army and later achieved success as the head coach of Lafayette Collegemarker from 1919 to 1923, leading the Leopards to the 1921 Eastern Collegiate Championship and shutting out Warners' Pitt teams in 1921 and 1922. So it was in 1924 that Sutherland returned to his alma mater to assume the head coaching duties with the goal of constructing dominant teams built on power and speed.sAfter a 5-3-1 record in his first season, Sutherland second season kicked off the Panthers' first in the newly constructed Pitt Stadium and saw the team achieve an 8-1 record and win the 1925 Eastern Championship. The following year, the Panthers featured Gibby Welsh, who led the nation in rushing in 1926 and helped Pitt to the Eastern Championship and its first bowl game, the Rose Bowlmarker, in 1927. Pitt, ironically, lost the Rose Bowl 7-6 to a Stanford team headed by the Panthers' former coach "Pop" Warner. In 1929, Pitt went undefeated in the regular season, the first of four undefeated regular seasons under Sutherland, and won the Eastern Championship, but lost its second appearance in the Rose Bowl to USC. Bowls at the time were still considered by many to be exhibition games, and the loss did not prevent football historian Parke Davis from naming Pitt as that season's national champion.

The 1930 season, at 6-2-1, was a rebuilding one for Sutherland, and was marked by a loss to Notre Dame that would be the only meeting between Sutherland and Knute Rockne due to his death in a 1931 plane crash. The Irish also spoiled Pitt's perfect season in a 1931 game at South Bend, although the Panthers finished 8-1 with six shutouts, including a 40-0 dismantling of Nebraska. That season also saw Pitt defeat Penn State in State College, using only one first-string player, by a score of 41-6 en route to winning the Eastern Championship. These accomplishments would prompt Parke Davis to again name the Panthers national champions. Pitt would exact revenge at home the following season by shutting out Notre Dame 12-0, and would also upend undefeated Penn in Philadelphia, as well as shut out Stanford at home on their way to the 1932 Eastern Championship. However, the season ended when the Panthers, in their third Rose Bowl, were again defeated by USC. The 1933 season was spoiled only by a 7-3 loss at Minnesota in which the Panthers fumbled twice inside their own 5-yard line. Minnesota would best Pitt again in 1934, when the Panthers squandered a third quarter lead to lose 13-7 to the undefeated Gophers. However, in 1934 Pitt also won at Nebraska 25-6, shutout Notre Dame 19-0, its third victory in a row over the Irish, and got revenge for the previous Rose Bowl losses to USC by defeating the Trojans 20-6 at Pitt Stadium. With these victories Pitt was named Eastern Champions as well as being awarded a share of the national championship by Parke Davis. The 1935 season saw some rebuilding as Pitt went 7-1-2 with notable games that included the first of three straight scoreless ties with then football powerhouse Fordham, who featured players such as Vince Lombardi, as well as a 12-7 win at USC to end the season.

One of the greatest back-to-back stretches in Pitt football history occurred during the 1936 and 1937 seasons which featured Heisman Trophy candidate and Hall of Famemarker running back Marshall Goldberg. In 1936, Pitt shut out five of its opponents, including a 34-0 win over West Virginia, a 6-0 victory at Ohio State, and a 26-0 win over Notre Dame in which the Irish did not achieve a first down until late in the third quarter. The Panthers also won at Nebraska 19-6 and defeated Penn State 24-7. Only a scoreless tie at the Polo Groundsmarker in New York against Fordham and a mid-October 7-0 upset loss against cross-town rival Duquesne marred the record. The Panthers finished the regular season winning the Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy as Eastern Champions and ranked third in the Associate Press Poll, the inaugural year of the poll, whose rankings were finalized before the bowl season. Pitt accepted a bid to the Rose Bowl to face Washington, and this time Sutherland was determined not to lose again out West. To avoid subpar play following the cross-country train trip, Sutherland took his team out two weeks early to allow for adequate preparation. These moves paid off with a 21-0 rout of Washington which led many selectors to name Pitt as the 1936 national champions. However, it was during this time that the seeds of a rift between Sutherland and the university's administration were being sowed, partly initiated by the refusal of the university to supply pocket money for players during the Rose Bowl trip, which Sutherland then decided to supply out of his own pocket. Pitt followed up the Rose Bowl winning season with a 9-0-1 record in 1937 that included five shut outs including those over West Virginia, Wisconsin, and at Duke as well as additional victories against Penn State, Nebraska, and at Notre Dame. The only blemish on the record was the tie at Fordham, which resulted when an apparent winning touchdown by Pitt's Marshall Goldberg was called back on a holding penalty, and marked the third such scoreless affair against the Rams in as many years.During this period, Pitt dominated teams, inducing Notre Dame to drop Pitt from its schedule. Pitt finished the 1937 regular season as repeat Eastern Champions and was ranked number one in the AP's final poll. Partly due to the developing rift with the university administration, and also due to the time and expense of the travel, Pitt became the first team to publicly decline a Rose Bowl invitation following a vote of the players. Regardless of its decision to sit out the post-season, the 1937 Pitt team was widely regarded as consensus national champions.

It was during this period of dominating football that the university, led by chancellor John Gabbert Bowman, started to institute policies designed to de-emphasize the athletic programs. This was manifested when a plan was instituted in the spring of 1937 by Athletic Director James "Whitey" Hagan, who had actually played for Sutherland, which eliminated university subsidies for athletes. Hagan's plan was then absorbed into a 1938 athletics code of conduct, referred to as "Code Bowman", which discouraged alumni help, restricted practices to two hours a day, and eliminated both athletic recruiting and all direct subsidization of athletics. While the implementation of these policies was the beginning of the end for that era of Pitt football prominence, the Panthers still impressed during the 1938 season behind an assembly of talent at running back labeled the "Dream Backfield." With Goldberg at fullback, Dick Cassiano and Harold Stebbins at halfback, and John Chickerneo at quarterback, Pitt won at Wisconsin, shut out West Virginia and Penn State at home and Nebraska on the road, and routed SMU. Notably, the deadlock against Fordham was finally broken as Pitt defeated the Rams 24-13 at Pitt Stadium. However, Pitt was tripped up against cross-town rival Carnegie Techmarker and at undefeated Duke. Following the season, the split between the administration and Sutherland became complete, and Sutherland resigned in March saying "The present system of athletic administration has resulted in conditions which, for me, are intolerable." The resignation caused a firestorm in the press and among the program's supporters, and resulted in student outrage and protests. However, the athletic code was firmly implemented and Sutherland's resignation stood.

Sutherland, who was described as "a national hero" in a Saturday Evening Post article, was perhaps the most highly admired and influential coach in the history of the university. Following his years at Pitt he never coached again in college and moved on to a career in the NFL including a head coaching stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers before his untimely death in 1948 of a brain tumor. During his 15 year tenure at the university, the longest of any football coach at Pitt, he compiled a record of 111-20-12 which included 79 shutouts. Sutherland never lost to rival Penn State and lost only once to West Virginia, and his teams were named Eastern football champions seven times including 1925, 1927, 1929, 1931, 1934, 1936, and 1937. During this time, Pitt appeared in four Rose Bowl gamesmarker (1928, 1930, 1933, and 1937) and turned down a bid for the 1938 Rose Bowl. Sutherland's teams were named "National Champions" by various selectors for nine different seasons including 1925, 1927, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1937, and 1938. Of these, the University of Pittsburgh officially recognizes five of those years as national championship seasons: 1929, 1931, 1934, 1936, and 1937.

A Failed Policy (1939–1954)

Jimmy Joe Robinson carrying the ball against Notre Dame in 1948
The policy of deemphasis resulted in a dramatic downturn for Pitt's football fortunes, including a succession of coaches with short stints. Charlie Bowser, a former player at Pitt under "Pop" Warner, took over in 1939, but the lack of athletic subsidies had eroded the talent base and the on-field results likewise steadily deteriorated. Bowser started 3-0 in 1939 and Pitt was ranked number one in the AP poll, but won only two more games and finished 5-4. Eight consecutive losing seasons followed. Pitt's stars during this period were running back Edgar "Special Delivery" Jones and guard Ralph Fife, who led Pitt to an upset win over undefeated Fordham in 1941. Bowser was replaced by Clark Shaughnessy in 1943 and in 1945; with new university chancellor Rufus Fitzgerald at the helm, athletic scholarships and recruiting were reinstated. However, substantial damage had already been done to the football program. Shaughnessy was replaced in 1946 by Wes Fesler, who left after his only season at Pitt to coach his alma mater Ohio State. Walter "Mike" Milligan took over head coaching duties in 1947 and scored one of the most satisfying wins in Pitt history when the Panthers defeated the Fesler-coached Ohio State team 12-0 for their only win of the season. During this era Pitt's first African-American player, Jimmy Joe Robinson, led the team in receiving and rushing, and also excelled at returning punts and kickoffs. Milligan brought Pitt back to a winning records in 1948 and 1949, achieving consecutive 6–3 seasons that included appearances in the national rankings and back-to-back shutouts of Penn State. However, Milligan resigned after the 1949 season, never to return to head coaching, due to a perceived snub by the university offering him only a one-year contract. Len Casanova took the job in 1950 but a disastrous campaign was followed by his departure following spring practice in 1951. This led to athletic director Tom Hamilton taking the reins of the team on an interim basis for the 1951 season. In 1952 Red Dawson took over, and the Panthers, led by future Hall of Famermarker Joe Schmidt, scored a huge upset at Notre Dame, then coached by Frank Leahy, en route to a 6–3 record. However, a losing record followed in 1953, and after three losses to start the 1954 season, and due to poor health, Dawson stepped down. For the remainder of the season Hamilton again took over the team, guiding Pitt to an upset of number nine Navy and handing West Virginia its only loss of the season.

John Michelosen Years (1955–1965)

Pitt advancing the ball in a 27-7 win over Cal in a 1955 game at Pitt Stadium
In 1955 Pitt sought a return to the roots of its previous success by turning to John Michelosen, a quarterback on Jock Sutherland's 1936 and 1937 championship teams who later served as a Sutherland assistant and as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Michelosen immediately brought Pitt football back to respectability in his first season with the 1955 Eastern Championship that was capped by an appearance in the 1956 Sugar Bowl. Pitt's invitation to the Sugar Bowl was surrounded by controversy because Pitt, an integrated team, was the first to bring an African-American, Bobby Grier, to play in a bowl game in the segregated "Deep South". Grier's play in the Sugar Bowl cemented the university's place in civil rights history as the first team to break the color barrier for southern bowls. However, the game was marred by protests in the South leading up to the game, which Pitt lost 7-0 when a controversial interference pentalty was called on Grier that set up the winning touchdown for Georgia Tech. The following season, Michelosen guided Pitt to another bowl berth, the Gator Bowl, which resulted in another seven point loss to Georgia Tech.

Four additional winning seasons followed against formidable national schedules that were highlighted by victories over Notre Dame, USC, Miami, UCLA, Penn State, Oregon, Syracuse, Nebraska, and West Virginia. A three win season in 1961 that included wins at Miami and over USC, and three close losses by 6 points or less to Baylor, Washington, and Notre Dame, was followed by a 5-5 record in 1962 and then perhaps the best team of the Micheloson era in 1963. The 1963 team, led by All-American Paul Martha, swept through a schedule that included wins at Notre Dame, UCLA, West Virginia, and Miami and home victories against Washington, Cal, Syracuse, and Penn State. The only loss of the season was in late October at Navy, which was led by Roger Staubach and would finished the season ranked second. The Panther at 8-1 and ranked fourth in the nation headed into their season finale against Penn State with a chance to play for a national championship. However, national tragedy struck when President John F. Kennedy was assassinatedmarker on November 22 which caused a rescheduling of Pitt's final game against Penn State to December 7. The bowls, which feared prematurely inviting Pitt in the case it were to suffer a loss, signed other teams leaving Pitt without an invitation despite defeating the Nittany Lions. Perceived as perhaps the best team of the modern football era to not appear in a bowl, the 1963 team finished with its number three ranking intact but infamously received the label of the "No Bowl Team".

The bad luck of 1963 seemed to jinx the program for the rest of Michelosen tenure, and despite wins over Oklahoma, Miami, West Virginia, and Penn State, two three-win seasons followed. The loses prompted the removal of Michelosen as coach, a move that sent the football program into a tailspin.

In eleven seasons at Pitt, the second longest coaching tenure at the school after Sutherland's, Michelosen achieved a 56-49-7 record with only 4 losing campaigns. Pitt finished ranked among the top twenty programs in four seasons with Michelosen at the helm. Michelosen also was a major coaching influence on such modern day NFL coaching greats as Mike Ditka and Marty Schottenheimer, both of whom played at Pitt under Michelosen.

A Turn for the Worse (1966–1972)

The years that followed Michelosen's tenure were among the most downtrodden years of Pitt football as the Panthers compiled a sickly 16-56 record over the next six seasons. David Hart, who replaced Michelosen, produced three straight one-win seasons where many games produced embarrassing scores. Hart was replaced in 1969 by Carl DePasqua, who had previously won a Division II national title as Waynesburg'smarker coach and had been currently serving as an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. DePasqua brought a handful of wins, including upsets over Syracuse, West Virginia, and at UCLA, but could not achieve a winning record and was relieved following a disastrous single win campaign in 1972.

A Major Change (1973–1981)

University chancellor Wesley Posvar took action to revive the football program and brought in Johnny Majors from Iowa State to resurrect the program in 1973. Majors immediately upgraded the recruiting, most notably bringing in future Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett. Major's impact was immediate as the Panthers improved from one win in 1972 to 6-5-1 in 1973 which saw them earn a bid to the Fiesta Bowl. The next season saw further improvement with wins at Florida State and Georgia Tech to finish 7-4, and in 1975 a Sun Bowl victory over Kansas capped an 8-4 record highlighted by wins at Georgia and Notre Dame. The stage was thus set in 1976 for the Panthers to run the table of their 11 game regular season schedule that included a 31-10 opening season win at Notre Dame, a 42-14 win at Georgia Tech, a 36-19 win over Miami, and a season ending 24-7 romp over Penn State. An invitation to the 1976 Sugar Bowl against number two Georgia followed. Pitt slammed the Bulldogs 27-3 and, being voted number one by Associated Press and Coaches polls, was widely regarded as consensus national champions. However, following this historic season, which was Pitt's first undefeated national championship since 1937, Johnny Majors returned to his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, to take the head coaching job.

Jackie Sherrill, an assistant under Majors at Pitt and the head coach at Washington State, succeed Majors as head coach at Pitt in 1977. The winning continued with a 9-2-1 record and Gator Bowl win in 1977 and an 8-4 record and Tangerine Bowl appearance in 1978. Sherrill stockpiled future NFL talent including quarterback Dan Marino and Outland Trophy winner Mark May, and molded a devastating defense that was anchored by Heisman Trophy runner up Hugh Green, the highest defensive player finisher in the history of Heisman voting. 1979 began a string of three straight seasons with 11-1 records, however, an early loss at North Carolina in 1979, a midseason loss during a driving rainstorm at Florida State in 1980, and a devastating season ending defeat at the hands of rival Penn State in 1981 prevented these teams from clinching an AP or Coaches poll national championship. The later loss was especially devastating, as the number one ranked Panthers had opened up a 14-0 lead only to see an apparent Dan Marino touchdown pass picked off in the endzone and returned for a touchdown. Instead of closing out its season with a chance at a national championship, the Nittany Lions ran off 48 unanswered points to end the Panthers' championships dream. In each of these three seasons, Pitt rebounded to win their bowl games which were the Fiesta, Gator, and Sugar Bowls respectively. The 1981 Sugar Bowl was highlighted by one of the most dramatic plays in Pitt history as Dan Marino hit a streaking John Brown on fourth down in the last seconds of the game for the go ahead score against a Georgia team that featured Herschel Walker. Sherrill's teams at Pitt are considered by some to be among the most talented in Pitt, and college football, history. The 1980 Pitt team alone featured seven first round draft picks, 23 players that went on to start in the NFL, seven additional NFL players, and one player each that played in the CFL and the USFL. Bobby Bowden, legendary coach of Florida State, is quoted as saying: "I've said it many times, in all my years of coaching, that Pitt team was the best college football team I have ever seen." Sherrill left in 1982 for Texas A&M signing a then record contract worth over $1.7 million. In Sherrill's five seasons at Pittsburgh, the Panthers won 50 games, lost nine, and had one tie which places his 0.842 winning percentage at the top of all Pitt coaches and just ahead of Jock Sutherland.

A Drop in Stature (1982–1991)

Defensive coordinator and Pitt alumni Foge Fazio took the head coaching job of the preseason number one team for 1982 that had expectations of a national championship. The loaded Panthers, in Marino's senior season, stormed out to a 7-0 record before losing to Notre Dame and finished disappointingly with back-to-back losses at Penn State and to SMU in the Cotton Bowl Classic. National Championship aspirations were again failed to be realized in 1983 when Pitt fell to 8-3-1, including a loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, despite inspired play from All-American offensive tackle Bill Fralic. A disastrous three-win season in 1984, that was somewhat redeemed by a season ending demolition of Penn State, was followed by a five-win season in 1985 that prompted Fazio's replacement by Kansas head coach Mike Gottfried for 1986. Gottfried recruited well, defeated rival Penn State twice, and led Pitt to the Bluebonnet and John Hancock Sun bowls. During his tenure the university's administration implemented a policy of heightened entry requirements for athletes, above those of its peer institutions and the NCAA. Gottfried fought these policy changes, which led him to fall out of favor with the school's administration, including Chancellor Posvar, and ultimately to his replacement, despite a 27-16-2 overall record. He was replaced by his offensive coordinator, Paul Hackett, just prior to the 1989 Sun Bowl which resulted in a Pitt victory over Texas A&M. During this period, in 1991, Pitt also joined the new football conference created by the Big East, as it had previously been a member of the conference in most other sports since 1982, thus ending its history as a football independent.

Another Downturn (1991–1996)

However, under Hackett's leadership and the new academic policies, the football program underwent a steep decline. Hackett was removed before the last game of the 1992 season and assistant coach and Pitt alumni Sal Sunseri took over interim head coaching duties for the final contest at Hawai'i. The university again looked to its past and brought back Johnny Majors, who had recently resigned from coaching at Tennessee, to head up the Panthers for the following season. However, the talent had been thoroughly depleted under Hackett, and the quality of Pitt's football facilities had been left to fall behind those its competitors'. Throughout the mid-1990s Majors tried to recreate the magic of the 1976 season but achieved little success. His final campaign resulted in a 4-7 record which included several humiliating defeats. A new chancellor, Mark Nordenberg, brought in athletic director Steve Pederson in 1996 to clean out the athletic department and to resurrect the program. The move facilitated Majors' retirement from coaching following the 1996 season that coincided with his appointment to serve the university in the position of Special Assistant to the Athletic Director and Chancellor until the summer of 2007.

Wide Receiver U. (1997–2004)

1997 was a year that began many changes for the football program. New athletic director Steve Pederson moved to revamp the program's image after the disastrous years of losing in the preceding seasons. A new "Pittsburgh"-centric logo was unveiled, in order to tie the university more closely to the image of the city, new shades of blue and gold were instituted, and the athletic booster club was overhauled. Walt Harris, who had built a reputation for himself as a quarterback guru with a background in the West Coast Offense, was brought in to replace Majors in 1997 and undertook the task to rebuild a program that won only fifteen games in the previous five seasons. Results were almost immediate, as Harris took Pitt to the Liberty Bowl in his first season. Over the next two seasons, the Panthers posted a losing record as Harris worked on enhancing the talent in Pitt's program. At the same time, dramatic decisions were made by the school's administration to bring the football program's facilities, which had been left to deteriorate in the 1980s and 90s, more in line with those of its peers. A state-of-the art practice facility, the UPMC Sports Performance Complexmarker, was constructed on the city's South Side in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. In lieu of much needed but cost prohibitive renovations to modernize Pitt Stadium, a controversial decision was made by the administration to move home games to the newly proposed North Shore stadium, later named Heinz Fieldmarker, and to demolish Pitt Stadium in order to build a long awaited convocation center on its footprint. The final season in Pitt Stadium, which had served Pitt for 75 seasons, was a memorable one, and on November 13, 1999, the last game played in the stadium, the Panthers upset Notre Dame 37-27. The 1999 season saw improvement with a 5-6 record and the promise that more wins were right around the corner.

Behind an increasing stable of talented players, led by Bilentnikoff Award winner Antonio Bryant, Pitt was back to a winning record in 1998 and played the Bowl. Additional bowls games and national rankings would follow over the next four seasons. Overall Harris led the Panthers to a bowl game in six of his eight seasons, including five consecutive bowl games from 2000 through 2004, with bowl victories in the Tangerine Bowl over N.C. State in 2001 and, led by Bilentnikoff and Walter Camp Award winner Larry Fitzgerald, over Oregon State in the 2002 Insight Bowl. Harris also led Pittsburgh to the Big East Conference championship and Fiesta Bowl in 2004. He was named the Big East Conference coach of the year in 1997 and 2004, and he was the AFCA Region I coach of the year in 2002. Over his eight years at Pitt, from 1997–2004, Harris compiled an overall record of 52–44. However, alumni and fans were growing restless with a perceived recruiting deficiencies and an inability to return the program to the highest level, and when disparaging remarks about the program were made by his agent, Harris' contract negotiations with the school stalled. This led to an announcement prior to the Fiesta Bowl in 2004 that Harris was leaving Pitt to become head coach at Stanford.

The Current Regime (2005–present)

Dave Wannstedt, a Pittsburgh native and Pitt football alumni and graduate assistant under Johnny Majors, had recently resigned as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins when Harris announced he was leaving. With a proven college recruiting record, an NFL background, and strong Pittsburgh roots, Wannstedt immediately became a leading candidate to replace Harris and was named head coach on December 23, 2004. Wannstedt, who was known as a strong recruiter when a college assistant, prioritized recruiting in the talent-laden Western Pennsylvania area and the strengthening of the offensive and defensive lines. Wannstedt initially retained some of Harris' staff, including defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, but made several key changes including bringing in former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, the quarterback of Pitt's 1976 National Championship team, to run his offense. Additionally, a return to the prominent use of the wordmark "Pitt" as a logo, including its display on the football helmets, was instituted and coincided with Wannstedt's return to his alma mater.

Wannstedt's tenure at Pittsburgh thus far can be described as a steady progression of on field success and recruiting strength. Ranked 21st in the first AP Poll of 2005, the reality of the situation at Pitt, which had suffered in recruiting at the end of Harris' tenure and during the ACC's raid of the Big East, set in quickly with the opening defeat to Notre Dame and later at Ohio University. An excruciating 7-6 loss at Nebraska turned the season into an up hill struggle and Pitt finished at 5-6. Wannstedt turned to recruiting to remedy personnel deficiencies and his recruiting prowess led analysts to rate the Panthers' class of 2006 eleventh in the country. However, little improvement was seen in the record column as Pitt again struggled to a 6-6 record losing its last five games. Wannstedt followed his touted 2006 class by bringing in the number eight recruiting class as ranked by Scout in 2007. The 2007 season proved to be one of many inconsistencies. Wins over ranked Cincinnati were punctuated by near misses at Rutgers and Louisville, but steady improvement was maintained throughout the season. Despite only achieving a 4-6 record prior to the last game of the season at number two ranked West Virginia, Wannstedt was given a contract extension through 2012. That game in Morgantown on December 1, 2007 was the 100th edition of the Backyard Brawl and the Mountaineers, a four touchdown favorite, needed only a win over rival Pitt to earn a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. The school administration's faith in Wannstedt was rewarded, as the talent stockpiled by Wannstedt's recruiting scored its biggest win up to that point, and perhaps the biggest upset in school history, when they defeated the Mountaineers 13-9 and thereby prevented their rival from playing for a chance at their first national championship.

The Panthers started the 2008 season with new defensive coordinator Phil Bennett and ranked in the top 25 for the second time under Wannstedt's leadership but suffered an early and surprising setback in the opening game against Bowling Green. Pitt rebounded to defeat Buffalo and then Iowa by a score of 21–20. The winning continued when the Panthers upset undefeated and tenth ranked South Florida in a game nationally televised by ESPN. A win at Navy preceded a home upset to Rutgers, however Pitt rebounded with a 36-33 victory the following week at Notre Dame. That game, which lasted four overtime periods, was the longest game ever for both Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. After a 41–7 rout of visiting Louisville, the Panthers improved to 7–2, were bowl bound for the first time under Wannstedt, and were in contention for a Big East Championship and a BCS bowl bid. However, a loss at Cincinnati all but eliminated the Panthers from contention. Pitt did rebound to defeat arch rival West Virginia 19-15 on the Friday after Thanksgiving in a national telecast game on ABC. The following week the Panthers won at UConn to improve to 9-3 and clinched a bid to the Sun Bowl, the first bowl bid under Wannstedt. However, Pittsburgh suffered 3-0 defeat in the bowl game, the first time that Pitt had been shut out in twelve years, at the hands of an Oregon State team that had previously defeated USC. In 2009 Pitt got off to an 9-1 start, and broke into the Top 10, its best start since 1982. Dave Wannstedt's record at Pitt now stands at 34-25 including games played in the 2009 season, which saw the introduction of a new offensive coordinator, Frank Cignetti, Jr..


The team first played at Recreation Parkmarker. Beginning in 1900, the Panthers played their games at Exposition Parkmarker on the North Shoremarker of Pittsburgh, sharing the stadium with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 1909 the Panthers, along with the Pirates, moved to Forbes Fieldmarker, located on campus, where they played until 1924. In 1925, Pitt Stadiummarker was completed on the opposite end of the campus, giving the Panthers their first and only private stadium. Pitt Stadium was home for the Panthers although the Steelers also used it for home games in the mid-1960s. Following the demolition of Pitt Stadium in 1999, the Panthers moved to Three Rivers Stadiummarker, again on the North Shore, where the Pirates and Steelers had played since 1970. A handful of nationally televised Pitt Panther football games from the late 1970s to 1999 were played as home games not at Pitt Stadium but at Three Rivers with its more modern facilities.

Heinz Fieldmarker opened in 2001, where the Panthers currently play as a co-tennant with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Panthers' practice facility is the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Performance Complexmarker which is also shared with the Steelers.


Pitt football has been involved in several notable first-time occurrences in the history of college football, including:


Among the oldest traditions is the Official University Yell, dating to 1890, that has survived as lyrics within the fight song "Hail to Pitt". This song, along with the Pitt Victory Song, and The Panther Song, are the the most common of Pitt fight songs performed on game days by the Pitt Band. The Pitt Band also participates in the "Panthers Prowl" which begins two hours before kickoff and allows fans to meet the team as they make their way into Heinz Field outside Gate A. Originally, this tradition began as players made their way into Pitt Stadiummarker. One hour prior to kick off, the Pitt Band also engages in the "March to Victory" from Tony Dorsett Drive down General Robinson Street and ending at the stage on Art Rooney Avenue. This tradition dates back to before the move to Heinz Field when the Pitt Band would march throughout the streets of Oakland campus before arriving at Pitt Stadium. In addition, at halftime, the band typically will play in at least one formation spelling out "PITT". Other football traditions include:
  • A giant inflatable football helmet is set up on the lawn of the William Pitt Unionmarker during the week prior to football home games. Typically, information or other freebees are distributed around the helmet prior to the day of the game.
  • A 50-yard long Hail to Pitt Flag is carried by 100 students, selected for each home football game, onto the field during pre-game ceremonies.
  • Student organizations, carrying standards, form a tunnel for the football players to run through as the enter the football field from the locker room. Originally, this long standing tradition involved only Pitt fraternities and sororities. The tradition was briefly lost following the 1999 season when Pitt's football program transitioned from playing in Pitt Stadiummarker to Three Rivers Stadiummarker in 2000 followed by Heinz Fieldmarker in 2001. The tradition was resurrected beginning with the 2008 football season.
  • Following touchdowns, the horns of the Gateway Clipper riverboat fleet, which cruises just outside Heinz Field, sound.
  • When the Pitt offense moves into the 20 yard line, two large, motorized Heinz ketchup bottles flanking either side of the scoreboard tilt over and beginning to pour out their electronic contents onto the JumboTron's screen signifying the team's move into the "red zone".
  • The upper section of the Cathedral of Learningmarker is illuminated "gold" after a football team victory, as opposed to the everyday white spotlights.
  • The jumbotron leads the crowd in a "Let's Go Pitt!" version of "Sweet Caroline" between the 3rd and 4th quarter.

Student section

During the late 1990s, athletic director Steve Pederson instituted a rebranding of the Pitt Stadiummarker student section in an attempt to bolster enthusiasm and unity by emphasizing the 12th man concept. The stadium was repainted with the student section changed to section "12" and a large inflatable jersey bearing number 12 was placed near the section. Upon the move the Heinz Fieldmarker, the athletic department, in collaboration with their sideline apparel outfitter at the time Aéropostale, created the Aero-Zone. The Aero-Zone served as an exclusive on-field seating section for Pitt students where the first 200 students who lined up for the section before the game with student were admitted if they possessed tickets and proper identification. The Aero-Zone failed to catch sustained interest and was eventually disappeared.

The current official Pitt football student fan club and cheering section, the Panther Pitt, was founded in 2003 by Pitt students Robin Frank and Julie Brennan to attempt to organize an Oakland Zoo-like atmosphere at Heinz Fieldmarker for football games. The Panther Pitt helped in coordinating student ticking policies with the athletic department and the Oakland Zoo. In 2006, the Panther Pitt and the Pitt Student Government Board originated the concept of "Code Blue" in which students wear blue t-shirts to the game to match the home blue uniforms of the Pitt football team. Commonly worn by students attending football games, the back of "Code-Blue" t-shirts typically include the line "Alle-genee-genac-genac" from the Official University Yell. Other groups are also attempting to create a more unified student section for football.


The University of Pittsburgh has long-standing rivalries with several teams. Currently, Pitt's fiercest and primary rivalry is the Backyard Brawl which is played annually against fellow Big East Conference member the West Virginia. The Brawl, played 102 times, is one of the oldest and most played rivalries in college football. Prior to the 2001 football season, Pitt's most heated and longest standing rival had been intrastate foe Penn State. This game has been on hiatus since 2000 following a rash of disputes between the two schools. Other long-standing rivals include the Notre Dame and Syracuse, both schools are tied as the third most played rivalry for Pitt. More recently, the River City Rivalry was established when the Cincinnati Bearcats entered the Big East with the annual winner of the game being awarded the Paddlewheel Trophy.

Team Awards & Accomplishments

National Championships

       see also: Pittsburgh Panthers football seasons#National Championships

Pitt Claimed

Pitt claims nine national championship seasons
The University of Pittsburgh claims nine National Championships: 1915, 1916, 1918, 1929, 1931, 1934, 1936, 1937, and 1976 out of a total of 12 seasons that it has been selected as a national champion by a "major selector" as determined by the Official NCAA Records Book and out of 16 seasons that it has been named the National Champion by at least one selector according to research by College Football Data Warehouse (CFBDW).

The University bases its claim for the first eight national championships on a study conducted in 1970 by Sports Illustrated. These championships, together with its unanimous championship of 1976, are the basis for the university's claim of nine national championship seasons. Combining CFBDW research with the Official NCAA RecordsBook and Sports Illustrated study, Pitt has been recognized as the National Champion by at least one selector in 17 different seasons.

Using the research compiled by Sports Illustrated, the nine National Championships claimed by Pitt are presented in their annual football media guide as follows:

National Championships Claimed by the University of Pittsburgh
Year Coach Selector Record
1915 Glenn "Pop" Warner Parke Davis 8-0
1916 Glenn "Pop" Warner Unanimous 8-0
1918 Glenn "Pop" Warner Unanimous 4-1
1929 Jock Sutherland Parke Davis 9-1
1931 Jock Sutherland Parke Davis 8-1
1934 Jock Sutherland Parke Davis 8-1
1936 Jock Sutherland The Football Thesaurus (Houlgate System),

Illustrated Football Annual (Boand System)
1937 Jock Sutherland AP, Dunkel System

Litkenhous, Williamson System

Illustrated Football Annual (Boand System),

The Football Thesaurus (Houlgate System)
1976 Johnny Majors Unanimous 12-0
Total Claimed 9

NCAA Records Book

        see also: Year-by-year list of "Major" National Championship Selections

According to the Official NCAA Division 1 Football Records Book, Pitt has been named a national champion by a "Major Selector" in 11 separate seasons. The seasons listed in the NCAA Records Book include:

1910 • 1915 • 1916 • 1918 • 1929 • 1931 • 19361937197619801981


College Football Data Warehouse officially recognizes the 6 seasons in which the University of Pittsburgh was named National Champion. Interestingly, CFBDW recognizes the Joe Thompson coached 1910 undefeated and unscored upon team as a National Champion, whereas the university does not claim this championship. The following seasons are the years Pitt is the College Football Data Warehouse Recognized National Champion:

1910 • 1916 • 1918 • 193619371976

According to research conducted by College Football Data Warehouse, in 10 additional seasons to the ones listed above, at least one selector of national championships has declared Pitt as its National Champion for a total of 16 selections. The 16 seasons that Pitt was selected as a National Champion by at least one selector according to CFBDW research include:

1910 • 1915 • 1916 • 1917 • 1918 • 1925 • 1927 • 1929 • 1931 • 1933 • 19361937 • 1938 • 197619801981

National Poll-era (1936–present)

Since the advent of the AP Poll in 1936, Pitt has been selected as its National Champion twice, in 1937 and 1976. It should be noted that until the 1968 college football season, the final AP poll of the season was released following the end of the regular season, with the exception of the 1965 season, and did not consider the results of bowl games. The other major national poll, the Coaches' Poll, began in 1950 and has selected Pitt as its National Champion once, in 1976.


The following table summarizes the source and totals for Pitt's national championship seasons.
Source Championships Years
AP/Coaches' Poll (1936–present) Two 1937, 1976
CFBDW (recognized) Six 1910, 1916, 1918, 1936, 1937, 1976
Sports Illustrated (1970 study) Eight 1915, 1916, 1918, 1929, 1931, 1934, 1936, 1937
NCAA ("major" selectors) Eleven 1910, 1915, 1916, 1918, 1929, 1931, 1936, 1937, 1976, 1980, 1981
CFBDW (all) Sixteen 1910, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1925, 1927, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1976, 1980, 1981
Total unique seasons Seventeen 1910, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1925, 1927, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1976, 1980, 1981
Claimed by Pitt Nine 1915, 1916, 1918, 1929, 1931, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1976

Undefeated seasons

Pitt has had eight undefeated seasons. Six of the eight seasons are perfect seasons with no ties. Of the eight undefeated seasons, four are not claimed as national championship seasons by Pitt. Pitt football finished the season undefeated in:

1904 (10–0) • 1910 (9–0) • 1915 (8–0) • 1916 (8–0) • 1917 (10–0) • 1920 (6–0–2) • 1937 (9–0–1) • 1976 (12–0)

One-loss seasons

Pitt also has had 17 one-loss seasons:

1894 • 1899 • 1914 • 1918 • 1925 • 1927 • 1929 • 1931 • 1932 • 1933 • 1934 • 1935 • 1936 • 1963 • 1979 • 1980 • 1981

Eastern & Conference Titles

For much of its history, Pitt played as an independent, as did the majority of what are now labeled as Division I FBS football-playing schools located in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. During this time, Eastern Championships were named by independent third party selectors and awarded of various trophies, such as the early Jolly Trophy awarded by the Philadelphia-based Veteran Athletic Organization which presented it to the team with the best record in the East. The process of picking an Eastern Champion eventually came to be symbolized by the Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy awarded by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority beginning in 1936. The Lambert-Meadowlands trophy, which is still awarded, is presented to the team deemed to be the best that located in the East or plays half its schedule against eligible Lambert teams. In total, Pitt has won 12 Eastern Championships.

In addition, in 1991, the majority of football independents in the East aligned themselves together in the Big East Football Conference. Round-robin play began in the Big East beginning in 1993, although a championship was awarded during its first two years.

Eastern and Conference Championships
Year Title Trophy Coach Record*
1925 Eastern Champion unknown Jock Sutherland 8-1
1927 Eastern Champion Jolly Trophy Jock Sutherland 8-1-1
1929 Eastern Champion unknown Jock Sutherland 9-1
1931 Eastern Champion unknown Jock Sutherland 8-1
1932 Eastern Champion unknown Jock Sutherland 8-1-2
1934 Eastern Champion unknown Jock Sutherland 8-1
1936 Eastern Champion Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy Jock Sutherland 8-1-1
1937 Eastern Champion Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy Jock Sutherland 9-0-1
1955 Eastern Champion Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy John Michelosen 7-4
1976 Eastern Champion Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy Johnny Majors 12-0
1979 Eastern Champion Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy Jackie Sherrill 11-1
1980 Eastern Champion Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy Jackie Sherrill 11-1
2004 Big East co-Champion Big East Championship Trophy Walt Harris 8-4
*including Bowl games

Bowl Games

Pitt has been to 25 bowl games throughout its history.
Pitt Bowl History  
Season Bowl Opponent Pitt


1927 Rose Bowlmarker Stanford 6 7 Loss
1929 Rose Bowl Southern California 14 47 Loss
1932 Rose Bowl Southern California 0 35 Loss
1936 Rose Bowl Washington 21 0 Win
1955 Sugar Bowl Georgia Tech 0 7 Loss
1956 Gator Bowl Georgia Tech 14 21 Loss
1973 Fiesta Bowl Arizona State 7 28 Loss
1975 Sun Bowl Kansas 33 19 Win
1976 Sugar Bowl Georgia 42 24 Win
1977 Gator Bowl Clemson 34 3 Win
1978 Tangerine Bowl N.C. State 17 30 Loss
1979 Fiesta Bowl Arizona 16 10 Win
1980 Gator Bowl South Carolina 37 9 Win
1981 Sugar Bowl Georgia 24 20 Win
1982 Cotton Bowl Classic SMU 3 7 Loss
1983 Fiesta Bowl Ohio State 23 28 Loss
1987 Bluebonnet Bowl Texas 27 32 Loss
1989 Sun Bowl Texas A&M 31 28 Win
1997 Liberty Bowl Southern Miss 7 41 Loss
2000 Bowl Iowa State 29 37 Loss
2001 Tangerine Bowl N.C. State 34 19 Win
2002 Insight Bowl Oregon State 38 13 Win
2003 Continental Tire Bowl Virginia 16 23 Loss
2004 Fiesta Utah 7 35 Loss
2008 Sun Bowl Oregon State 0 3 Loss

Number 1 Ranking

Pitt has achieved the number one ranking in the major national polls (AP since 1936 and Coaches' since 1950) on the following occasions:

1982 (Sept. 7, Oct. 26, Nov. 2)

1981 (Nov. 3, 10, 17, 24)

1976 (Nov. 9, 16, 23, 30, Jan. 5, 1977#)

1939 (Oct. 17)

1938 (Oct. 18, 25, Nov. 1)

1937 (Nov. 9, 16, 23, 30#)

#National Champion

Individual Awards

Retired Jerseys

Pitt has retired 8 jerseys of former outstanding football players

Major award winners

Tony Dorsett (1976)
Tony Dorsett (1976)
Hugh Green (1980)
Tony Dorsett (1976)
Hugh Green (1980)
Larry Fitzgerald (2003)

Hugh Green (1980)
Mark May (1980)
Antonio Bryant (2000)
Larry Fitzgerald (2003)

Johnny Majors (1973)
Jackie Sherrill (1981)
Johnny Majors (1977)
Johnny Majors (1973)
Johnny Majors (1976)

Heisman Finalists

Pitt players were among the finalists for the Heisman Trophy Award in 14 different seasons.

Year Name Position Finish
1937 Marshall Goldberg RB 3rd
1938 Marshall Goldberg RB 2nd
1941 Edgar Jones RB 7th
1960 Mike Ditka E 6th
1975 Tony Dorsett RB 4th
1976 Tony Dorsett RB 1st
1977 Matt Cavanaugh QB 7th
1980 Hugh Green DE 2nd
1981 Dan Marino QB 4th
1982 Dan Marino QB 9th
1983 Bill Fralic T 8th
1984 Bill Fralic T 6th
1987 Craig Heyward RB 5th
2003 Larry Fitzgerald WR 2nd

College Football Hall of Fame inductees

24 total former players or coaches have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.


The College Football Hall of Famemarker has inducted 18 former Panthers inducted as players.

In addition, Herb McCracken, who played at Pitt from 1918–1920, was inducted as a coach of Allegheny and Lafayette.


The College Football Hall of Fame has inducted four former Panther coaches.

The following two Pitt coaches have been inducted into the Hall of Fame as players at their respective schools.

First Team All-Americans

Pitt has had 70 different players selected as All-American throughout its history for a total of 86 First Team All-American Selections that have including 49 selections which have attained Consensus status. Pitt's Consensus First Team selections ranks as the eighth most consensus All-Americans among Division I FBS schools. The following list of Pitt's First Team All-Americans is compiled for the Pitt football media guide from various sources including the NCAA Football Guide, and consists of players who were first-team selections on one or more of the All American teams which were made over the years by Walter Camp, Grantland Rice, Casper Whitney, International News Service, Associated Press, United Press International, NANA, NEA, the Football Writers Association of America, the Football Coaches Association, the All-America Board, Newsweek, The Sporting News, and Sports Illustrated.

First Team All-American Selections
Year Name Pos.
1914 Robert Peck C
1915 Robert Peck* C
1916 Robert Peck* C
1916 James Herron* E
1916 Andy Hastings F
1916 Claude Thornhill G
1917 H.C. "Doc" Carlson E
1917 Jock Sutherland* G
1917 Dale Sies* G
1917 George McLaren F
1918 Leonard Hilty* T
1918 Tom Davies* B
1918 George McLaren* F
1920 Tom Davies B
1920 Herb Stein* C
1921 Herb Stein* C
1925 Ralph Chase* T
1927 Bill Kern T
Year Name Pos.
1927 Gilbert Welch# B
1928 Mike Getto* T
1929 Joe Donchess# E
1929 Ray Montgomery* G
1929 Toby Uansa H
1929 Thomas Parkinson B
1931 Jesse Quatse* T
1932 Joe Skladany* E
1932 Warren Heller# B
1933 Joe Skladany* E
1934 Charles Hartwig* E
1934 George Shotwell* G
1934 Isadore Weinstock C
1935 Art Detzel T
1936 Averell Daniell* T
1936 William Glassford G
1937 Frank Souchak E
1937 Bill Daddio E
Year Name Pos.
1937 Tony Matisi* T
1937 Marshall Goldberg* B
1938 Marshall Goldberg# B
1938 Bill Daddio E
1941 Ralph Fife G
1949 Bernie Barkouskie G
1952 Eldred Kraemer T
1952 Joe Schmidt LB
1956 Joe Walton# E
1958 John Guzik* G
1960 Mike Ditka# E
1963 Paul Martha* B
1963 Ernie Borghetti T
1973 Tony Dorsett RB
1974 Tony Dorsett RB
1974 Gary Burley MG
1975 Tony Dorsett RB
1976 Tony Dorsett# RB
Year Name Pos.
1976 Al Romano* MG
1977 Matt Cavanaugh QB
1977 Randy Holloway* DT
1977 Bob Jury* DB
1977 Tom Brzoza* C
1978 Hugh Green* DE
1978 Gordon Jones WR
1979 Hugh Green# DE
1980 Hugh Green# DE
1980 Mark May# OT
1981 Sal Sunseri* LB
1981 Jimbo Covert OT
1981 Dan Marino QB
1981 Julius Dawkins SE
1982 Jimbo Covert* OT
1982 Bill Maas DT
1982 Bill Fralic OT
1983 Bill Fralic# OT
Year Name Pos.
1984 Bill Fralic# OT
1986 Randy Dixon* OT
1986 Tony Woods* DE
1987 Ezekial Gadson LB
1987 Craig Heyward* RB
1988 Mark Stepnoski* OG
1988 Jerry Olsavsky LB
1989 Marc Spindler DT
1990 Brian Greenfield* P
1994 Ruben Brown OT
2000 Antonio Bryant* WR
2003 Larry Fitzgerald# WR
2006 H.B. Blades LB
2008 Scott McKillop LB
*indicates Consensus status. #indicates unanimous selection.   Ref:

Academic All-Americans

Pitt has had 16 different football players named as Academic-All Americans for a total of 21 selections. In addition, five Pitt players have been named as a National Scholar-Athletes by the National Football Foundation and three players have awarded NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships.

Academic Honors
Name Year(s) Selection Position
Dave Blandino 1973 NFF OL
Vince Crochunis 2002, 2003, 2004 AA DL
Dick Deitrick 1952 AA E
Jeff Delaney 1976, 1978




Rob Fada 1981, 1982 AA OL
Al Grigaliunas 1963 NFF E
John Guzik 1958 AA G
Bill Lindner 1959 AA T
Greg Meisner 1979, 1980 AA DL
Name Year(s) Selection Position
Greg Meisner 1979, 1980 AA DL
Lou Palatella 1954 AA T
J.C. Pelusi 1982 AA DL
Louis Riddick 1989, 1990 AA DB
Robert Schilken 1986 NCAA DE
Dan Stephens 2003, 2004 AA DL
Mark Stepnoski 1986, 1988




Todd Toerper 1974 NFF WR
Joe Walton 1956 AA E
AA = Academic All-American; NCAA = NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship; NFF = National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete   Ref:

Conference Awards

The University of Pittsburgh football program was an independent for the majority of its history. It joined the Big East Conference for football in 1991, the inaugural year that the Big East sponsored the sport. Pitt won the share of the Big East football championship in 2004 and has had several Big East Conference football awards, including Offensive Player, Defensive Player, Special Teams Player, Rookie, and Coach of the Year.

  • Offensive Player of the Year
1994 Billy West, RB, So
2000 Antonio Bryant*, WR, So
2003 Larry Fitzgerald, WR, So

  • Defensive Player of the Year
2006 H.B. Blades, LB, Sr
2008 Scott McKillop, LB, Sr

  • Special Teams Player of the Year
2002 Andy Lee*, P, Jr
2003 Andy Lee*, P, Sr

  • Rookie of the Year
1991 Tom Tumulty, LB
2002 Larry Fitzgerald, WR
2007 LeSean McCoy#, RB

  • Scholar-Athlete of the Year
2004 Vince Crochunis, DL

   Administration & Policy Studies
2008 Conor Lee, PK

   Business & Economics, MBA

  • Coach of the Year
1997 Walt Harris, 1st year
2004 Walt Harris, 8th year

*co-recipient, #unanimous selection

Panthers in the NFL

Pitt has produced 289 NFL players, many of them among the famous players in professional football history. Some former Pitt players that have left their mark on the NFL include Ruben Brown, Jim Covert, Mike Ditka, Chris Doleman, Tony Dorsett, Larry Fitzgerald, Russ Grimm, Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, Rickey Jackson, Dan Marino, Curtis Martin, Mark May, Darrelle Revis, and Tony Siragusa.

Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees

Four former Panthers are members of the Pro Football Hall of Famemarker:

NFL First Round Draftees

Throughout its history, the University of Pittsburgh has had 256 players selected 277 times in professional football drafts when totaling both NFL and AFL picks. This includes 23 First Round NFL draft picks since 1960.
Panthers Drafted in the NFL First Round  
Year Name Position Team overall pick
1961 Mike Ditka TE Bears 5
1964 Paul Martha S Steelers 7
1977 Tony Dorsett RB Cowboys 2
1978 Randy Holloway DE Vikings 21
1981 Hugh Green LB Buccaneers 7
1981 Randy McMillan RB Colts 12
1981 Mark May T Redskins 20
1983 Jim Covert T Bears 6
1983 Tim Lewis CB Packers 11
1983 Dan Marino QB Dolphins 29
1984 Bill Maas NT Chiefs 5
1985 Bill Fralic T Falcons 2
1985 Chris Doleman LB Vikings 4
1986 Bob Buczkowski DT Raiders 24
1987 Tony Woods LB Seahawks 18
1988 Craig Heyward RB Saints 24
1989 Burt Grossman DE Chargers 8
1989 Tom Ricketts T Steelers 24
1992 Sean Gilbert DT Rams 3
1995 Ruben Brown OL Bills 14
2004 Larry Fitzgerald WR Cardinals 3
2007 Darrelle Revis CB Jets 14
2008 Jeff Otah OL Panthers 19

Current NFL Players

Current NFL players that played college football at the University of Pittsburgh (as of July 2009):

#Selected to the Pro Bowl. *transferred to the University of Akronmarker for his final two seasons. &transferred to the University of Delawaremarker for his final two seasons.

Season-by-season results

Pitt Panthers Football Recent Season-by-Season Info
All-Time Totals
Wins Losses Ties NFL Draftees First Team All-Americans All-Time Ranking (based on wins)
662 477 42 252 86 #20
Dave Wannstedt (2005–present)
Year Wins Losses Highest rank

Final rank
Bowl Recognition NFL Draftees All-Americans
2009 9 2 #8

2008 9 4 #17

Sun Bowl LeSean McCoy

Scott McKillop

LaRod Stephens-Howling

Derek Kinder
Scott McKillop
2007 5 7 NR Jeff Otah

Mike McGlynn

Kennard Cox
Scott McKillop-LB

LeSean McCoy-RB
2006 6 6 NR Darrelle Revis

Clint Session

H.B. Blades
H.B. Blades-LB
2005 5 6 #21

Charles Spencer

Josh Lay

References and Notes

  1. College Football Data Warehouse: Division I-A All-Time Wins, accessdate=2009-03-15
  2. National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame: Hall of Famers, accessdate=2009-03-15
  3. The Owl (1911), University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, accessdate=2009-03-31
  4. College Football Data Warehouse: Yearly National Championship Selections: 1910, accessdate=2009-03-31
  5. College Football Data Warehouse: Pittsburgh All National Championships: Pittsburgh Total National Championships, accessdate=2009-04-08
  6. College Football Data Warehouse: Yearly National Championship Selections: 1916 National Champions, accessdate=2009-04-08
  7. "Robert W. Richards Pneumonia Victim", Eagle, November 8, 1918.
  8. College Football Data Warehouse: Yearly National Championship Selections: 1918 National Champions, accessdate=2009-04-08
  9. Past Division I-A Football National Champions
  10. Pittsburgh Coaching Records
  11. College Football Data Warehouse: Yearly National Championship Selections: 1936 National Champions, accessdate=2009-04-08
  12. College Football Data Warehouse: Yearly National Championship Selections: 1937 National Champions, accessdate=2009-04-08
  13. University of Pittsburgh 1975 football media guide, pg. 54, University of Pittsburgh, 1975; accessdate=2008-08-26
  14. Wallace, William N.; COLLEGE FOOTBALL; This Pitt Backfield Is Still a Dream; The New York Times, Oct. 15 1994; accessdate=2008-08-26
  15. 2007 Pitt Football Media Guide, p176; accessdate=2008-08-26
  16. University of Pittsburgh football media guide 2002, pg. 213, accessdate=2009-01-29
  17. Gordon S. White, Jr., Texas A&M signs Sherrill to richest college pact, New York Times, date=1982-01-20, accessdate=2009-04-05
  18. University of Pittsburgh football media guide 2002, pg. 269, accessdate=2009-01-29
  19. Mike Prisuta, Pederson Man behind turning of the Panthers' athletic fortunes, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 2002-04-07, accessdate=2009-01-29
  20. Kevin Gorman, Pederson returns at Pitt AD, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 2007-12-01, accessdate=2009-01-29
  21. Bob Smizik, Pitt gets it right with Pederson's return, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2007-12-01, accessdate=2009-01-29
  22. Pitt Football Coach Wannstedt Gets 3-Year Extension,, accessed 2007-12-02
  23. 2008 Panther Football Fan Guide, pg. 2, ISP Sports; accessdate=2008-08-24
  24. Pitt Traditions Part of Debut Season at New Heinz Field; Pitt Campaign Chronicle; August 20/27, 2001, accessdate=2008-08-24
  25. Upcoming events: Pitt Students - Make Your Heinz Field Standard/Claim Your Grill Night (Aug 27),; accessdate 2008-08-24
  26. Giant Heinz Ketchup Bottles Make Their NFL Debut During Steelers-Titans Game; Monday Night Football Shines at Heinz Field, Business Wire, BNET Business Network, Oct 29, 2001; accesscate=2008-08-24
  27. Thomas, Dave; Panthers face must-win game against Mountaineers; Pitt News, Nov. 15, 2006; accessdate=2008-08-25
  28. EDITORIAL - Priestas best choice for SGB president, The Pitt News, Nov. 7, 2007; accessdate=2008-08-25
  29. Cat Basket,, accessdate=2008-08-25
  30. Pitt was selected as a national champion in 1934 by Parke Davis, who is deemed as a "major selector" of national champions according to the Official NCAA Records Book. However, Davis' championship selection for 1934 is missing from the Official NCAA Records Book, and thus Pitt is listed in the NCAA Records Book as having been named a national champion in only 11 seasons.
  31. 2008 NCAA Division I Records Book, pgs. 76–81, accessdate=2009-01-08
  32. Pitt Panthers media guide 2006 Pitt Football Media Guide
  33. The total of 17 National Championship season selections is arrived at by combining the 16 seasons listed by College Football Data Warehouse: Pittsburgh All National Championships, accessdate=2008-11-28 plus the 1934 Parke Davis selection listed by Sports Illustrated and claimed by Pitt.
  34. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, Official 2008 NCAA Division 1 Football Records Book, 2008–08, pg 76, ISSN0735–5475, accessdate=2008-11-28
  35. College Football Data Warehouse: Pittsburgh Composite Championship Listing: Recognized National Championships, accessdate=2009-03-15
  36. Based on a Sports Illustrated study conducted in 1970 2006 University of Pittsburgh Football Media Guide
  37. National Championships as listed in the official NCAA football records book as selected by "Major Selectors" although the NCAA itself does not recognize or discriminate between national championship selections.
  38. The University of Pittsburgh officially claims 9 National Championships for the Panthers football team. The University of Pittsburgh bases its claim for the first 8 national championships on a study conducted in 1970 by Sports Illustrated. These championships, together with its unanimous championship of 1976, are the basis for the university's claim of 9 national championship seasons. 2006 University of Pittsburgh Football Media Guide
  39. The Owl (1929), University of Pittsburgh, 1929, pg. 125
  40. - Heisman Trophy: Heisman Winners, accessdate=2009-03-18

Further Information

  • University of Pittsburgh Football Vault: The History of the Panthers. Sam Sciullo, Jr. Atlanta, GA: Whitman Pulblishing, 2008, ISBN 0794826539
  • University of Pittsburgh Football Media Guide 2008. E.J. Borghetti, Mendy Nestor, and Celeste Welsch eds. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh, 2008
  • Paths of Glory: The Dramatic Story of Pitt's First Century of Football. Video. Ross Sports Productions. 1991
  • Greatest Moments in Pitt Football History. Mike Bynum, Larry Eldridge, Jr., and Sam Sciullo, Jr. eds. Nashville, TN: Athlon Sports Communications, 1994, ISBN 1-878839-04-7
  • Hail to Pitt: A Sports History of the University of Pittsburgh. Jim O'Brien, ed. and Marty Wolfson, illus. Pittsburgh, PA; Wolfson Publishin Co., 1982, ISBN 0-916144-08-2
  • Pitt: The Story of the University of Pittsburgh 1787–1987. Robert C. Alberts. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986, ISBN 0-8229-2250-7
  • Pitt Stadium Memories 1925–1999. Sam Sciullo, Jr. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh. 2000
  • Tales from the Pitt Panthers. Sam Sciullo, Jr. Champaign, IL: Sports Publishing LLC, 2004, ISBN 1-58261-198-X
  • The Year the Panthers Roared. Francis J. Fitzgerald, ed., Louisville, KY, AdCraft Sports, 1996, ISBN 1-887761-06-3
  • Jock Sutherland: Architect of Men. Harry G. Scott. New York, NY: Exposition Press, 1954.

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