To Repeat or Not Repeat…Part 2

Here is Joe L.’s take on the Atlantic Coast Conference games. His out of conference games predictions can be found here: https://pittpov.com/2022/08/15/to-repeat-or-not-repeat-that-is-the-question/

Please share with us your thoughts and predictions in the comments section below – HTP!

Game 5 – A HOME game versus Georgia Tech When did the law that compelled Pitt to play all its games versus the Yellowjackets in Georgia change?!

Win or lose, I normally stay for the entirety of Pitt games I attend. However, I did walk out of a 2014 Georgia Tech – Pitt game at the end of the 1st quarter. And that’s because the Panthers had an awful case of explosive diarrhea on the field that day… I believe the turnover count was 5 on Pitt’s part in the first half? The worst of the bunch was a James Conner fumble into the endzone when a Pitt score was certain to occur. So, I walked out. My BP was so high after that you could have popped my head with a pin – and it makes me angry just thinking about it now.

That is not going to happen this year. I guarantee it. Pitt wins this game on superior talent and experience. It’s the ACC opener for us with a chance to do something special…meanwhile the Ramblin’ Wreck will be just that, entering this game at 1-3 with losses to Clemson, Ole Miss and UCF. Folks, this is Geoff Collin’s curtain call before he is outsourced to the macroeconomy unless he has a buddy among the GT boosters with the patience of Job. Hopefully Collins shook the boosters hand at fundraising events.

Yes, we could lose this game because Collins is due against Pitt – but for gosh sakes they have the least number of starters returning in the ACC. They aren’t likely to have enough guys wanting revenge from the past few years’ losses. We could take them for granted though – especially if we somehow went 4-0 in the OOC slate. But I really doubt that, don’t you? With a win, our quest for a repeat Coastal Division title is off to a good start.

Game 6 – HOKIES FOR HOMECOMING! Pitt had their choice of Rhode Island, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech for Homecoming and chose the Hokies… let that sink in for a moment. Think Frank Beamer would have taken that as a slight?

When “Tech” got the ACC invite in 2003, folks down here were grateful – and smug. Many believed the Hokies belonged among college football elite programs. After all, they had Michael Vick and in the early 2000’s thought the good times would go on forever. Which made spanking their #5 ranked rear ends 31-28 in a 2003 national prime time game – with College GameDay at Heinz no less – very sweet. And yet they continued to look down their noses at Pitt – for years later. Not so much these days.

I enjoy it when Pitt beats Virginia Tech. Half of my extended family are VT alums and my mom’s cousin was a major booster – they even named a building after him. (My immediate family – except me – are Cavaliers). On top of that, I work in a company full of VT engineering grads who wear those awful Chicago maroon and burnt orange VT colors in the office. The local (Richmond) Hardywood Brewery thought it would be cute to produce a Hokie beer as well. With the program’s regression to the mean following the Beamer/Foster glory days, the chatter is a little muted lately – which is as refreshing as one of those Helles Lagers on ice.

I think Brent Pry was an excellent choice for VT and they may very well enjoy a resurgence under his leadership. But not this season. Pry will need a couple years to get his guys in and establish a defensive oriented team (sound familiar?). Justin Fuentes left a rather bare cupboard, especially on the offensive side of the ball. QB has been a bit of a revolving door and while a few interesting guys transferred in, OL protection and exactly who is going to catch passes are big question marks. That said, they could come into this game at 3-2 or perhaps 4-1 with an upset win over the Hoopies or the Tarholes. But I struggle to see them generating the offense they will need against Pitt’s defense. So, I like Pitt in this game.

Game 7 – The Ville  I still don’t get why these guys are in the ACC. Perhaps UL won over John Swofford with overflowing glasses of Pappy VanWinkle and a Kentucky Hot Brown at The Camberley Hotel? Hope he remembered to take his statin after that meal.

The folks in Lou-a-ville are trying to run a sleaze-free athletics program these days. An unnatural act for them… kinda like me trying to golf left-handed. Perhaps ACC conference leadership nudged them.

With Pitt possibly coming into this game at 5-1, this game could make for a nice primetime game as I think the Cardinals will have a similar if not the same record at this point. Both teams will be coming off bye weeks, so there will be plenty of time for each coaching staff to game plan.

The question for this game is how Malik Cunningham plays. Like Hendon Hooker, Cunningham is generating Heisman talk and many think he will be an NFL first rounder. He’s a dynamic playmaker and Pitt will have its hands full containing him (although Pitt did just that the last time they faced him). They have one of the best OL’s in the conference and the RB room looks very good. The receivers are a question mark and so we will see a lot of running plays. Pitt matches up well with its emphasis on stopping the run.

On the other side of the ball, they have not shown an ability to shut down teams not named Syracuse. They have a really good CB in Kei-trel Clark Jr., but the rest of the unit looks just OK.

A lot of folks believe Pitt will get torched in this game because of Narduzzi’s defensive scheme. I’m struggling with this one because of the unknowns at receiver for the Cards… and of course QB at Pitt. This game could go either way. Anybody have a coin? Pushed to choose, I think Louisville pulls this one out late given the home field and former QB and current head coach Scott Satterfield outfoxing Narduzzi… despite the presence of Matt in the Ville, who finally doesn’t have to drive forever to see a game.Matt, at least the ride home will be short!

Game 8 – Tarholes I keep waiting for the second coming of Mack Brown to actually live up to expectations. No one north of Coral Gables has done less with more than Brown and the Tar Heels. At least they love him down in Chapel Hill. If he were coaching at UPMC Southside, the complaints from Pitt fans would be unending.

As for the game, one thing we can count on is the Heels will put forth a really good defensive unit this year. Another thing we can count on is home cooking in Chapel Hill. We can reasonably expect a dropoff at QB. Im told by the local insiders that Drake Maye, the highly-touted, wundkerind redshirt freshman from Charlotte will get the starting nod over Jacoby Criswell. If he develops quickly, Pitt might have its hands full because the receivers are good.

Coming off a loss in Louisville, I believe Pitt bounces back and takes this one – the first down in Chapel Hill ever. Heel fans will be dumbfounded. Bless their hearts.

Don’t buy that? OK, I will say this then: I believe they will go 1-1 vs Louisville & UNC. I can make an argument for winning or losing either; I just don’t see them losing both at this point. And a bowling we will go.

Game 9 – Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust Syracuse comes to Are Yinz Sure Stadium in early November, so its more likely to be muddy running than dusty – but you get my point. Sean Tucker is the real deal and despite Pitt’s ability to stop him last year, he has a motor. Pitt will need to be ready to play this game because he will be. And their QB Garrett Shrader runs the ball well also. So, stopping the run will be important. Fortunately, Pitt has done a nice job there.

The Orangemen have a strong back seven, so Pitt will want to establish the run. Hopefully by this point, our starting QB will have established good chemistry with one of the WRs and Gavin Bartholomew.

I think they will and Pitt wins this game but maybe not by the margin folks here would like to see.

And by the way, that’s not BigB on a bootleg vs Jeanette in the photo. Its Ernie Davis – just in case you might have been fooled.

Game 10 – Mr. Jefferson’s University Living in the shadows of Charlottesville, I spend a little bit of time watching the Cavaliers. One of the great traditions at Scott Stadium is when Cav-man enters on his horse.

The game last year vs UVA could have gone either way. A collective sigh of relief was heard at Heinz Field when Jordan Addison went up and claimed a ball that was rightfully his. My, it was exciting to watch him jet down the field after the catch to seal the game. And then the ensuing late night celebration at Red5A on “Light Up Night” dahntahn.

I’m sorry Bronco Mendenhall left UVA. Solid guy and a good football coach. His departure may have been a blessing for the Cavaliers, who might have peaked under Mendenhall. I believe they nailed it with Tony Elliott. He’s got one of the best QBs in the ACC in Brennan Armstrong and a WR unit that is at least as good as Pitt’s. But their OL is entirely new this year and no one on this unit stands out. I think Armstrong will be running for his life in this game. But Pitt may get torched a couple times if they don’t get to him. On defense, the Cavaliers are switching to a 4-3. Last year’s unit was porous and it’s still a question mark.

I believe Pitt will have found its offensive footing by this point and the Panthers will leave Scott Stadium with another victory.

Game 11 – Duke  The Blue Devils are rebuilding following David Cutcliffe’s retirement and that will not be done before they reach Pittsburgh in mid-November. I’m not sure this requires much more analysis. Pitt wins this one handily.

Game 12 – The de facto Coastal Division Championship in Miami? I believe that the Miami Hurricanes will come into this final regular season game at 5-2, with losses to Clemson and Florida State, although I can see them beating the Noles and getting to 6-1. I believe their overall record will be 9-2 or 8-3. If you are keeping track of my picks, you will note that I have Pitt at 6-1 (9-2 overall) at this point. So, yes folks I believe this game will decide the final winner of the ACC Coastal Division.

The Canes are loaded with talent as usual. That starts with Tyler VanDyke, who IMO is the best QB talent in the ACC. (Again, just my opinion) He’s gonna play on Sundays. They are solid in the skill positions and with Christobal taking over, I believe the OL will be a point of emphasis.

It could be a close game if Slovis has a good game. Pitt will be at its offensive best barring injuries. That said, Miami has an excellent front 7 on defense (the DL in particular). Did they improve in their tackling during the offseason?… I’m guessing yes.

Can Pitt win this game? Heck, yeah they can. They will need to play to their potential to win it and perhaps being the underdog (which they will be) can push them over the top. I will reserve the right to change my position on this come game week. Let’s hope Pitt makes me want to do that.

In the end, I think Miami’s OL will wear down Pitt’s defense and Miami will claim the Coastal title. Wish and hope it won’t be so, but going with my head and not my heart. Would love to drive to Charlotte again in early December as I believe the Championship game will be something to see.

To sum it up, I see Pitt going 9-3 overall and 6-2 in ACC play, with +/- 1 game in the win column. A good season…Pitt could finish with 10 wins and I see them in the mix right up until Thanksgiving weekend.

Here are a couple bonus predictions:

While Slovis will start the opener, both he and Patti will start games due to injury.

Izzy becomes the face of the Panther offense.

Daniel Carter makes George Aston and Henry Hynoski proud as an impact FB

No one will register a pick six off of a shovel pass this year.

There you have it; time to weigh in with your own predictions for the season!

There you have it; time to weigh in with your own thoughts and predictions in the comments section below – you know you want to!

H2P!

“To Repeat or Not Repeat, That is the Question…”

Editor’s Note: From our newest POV writer, Joe L., we have a great conversation starter on the subject of we readers predicting how our OOC and ACC games will play out. Thanks Joe and keep them coming. Because the original article is over 3500 words Joe and I decided to split the article into out of conference games in the season and then in the second half of the article we will address the conference games.

Enjoy some very nice writing! Please share with us your thoughts and predictions in the comments section below – HTP!

Long time readers of the POV know that one of the rites of mid to late August is the annual prognostication of the Panthers’ football season record by many of our posters.

I normally dodge that exercise like a few others (Huff+III comes to mind) because so much can happen to affect the outcome of games – injuries, bounces, turnovers, inexplicable play calls by coaches, missed calls by refs, injuries (yeah, I said that twice), changes in targeting rules and the weather. Just too many variables.

But I’m going to do an about-face, stick my neck out and make a prediction. Why this year? I’m not totally sure to be honest. Its not the easiest year to jump in this pool. The last twelve months have been the best we’ve seen from Pitt football since my youth. We’ve lost some key guys, the schedule gets a bit harder and yet there is optimism among many in the fan base that coaching stability and patience are starting to pay off.

I’ll go through my thoughts game by game so that you will at least know exactly how I arrived at my guess. Hopefully that provides good fodder for discussion and debate. Its clear from the posts in Richard’s last few analyses that many of you are ready to engage in that discussion. So, without further ado…

Game 1 – The Brawl I’m not a big fan of big opening games. Especially a regional rival like the Hoopies or the Peds.  Win the game and the euphoria that follows can quickly crash with a loss in a dreaded trap game that is sure to follow. Lose and it seems like the world has ended before the season has really begun. Dyspepsia of the soul comes to mind. Its just not healthy.

Be that as it may, the folks who run Division 1 College Football – the TV networks – need good inventory for Labor Day weekend, lest everyone skip the viewing and head to the Ribfest (in the old days it was the Pirates Labor Day doubleheader at Three Rivers). Games that are best played on a weekend before bowl season are now foisted upon us before we’ve even gotten into game-watching shape…. No stretching of emotional muscles, reps at mixing Crown, Ice and Ginger Ale or getting the new routes down to Frisch’s for wings (or Prantl’s for burnt almond tortes) due to the latest road construction. Not to mention the impact of whatever new structure is being raised on the North Shore.

And thus, Pitt opens with a nationally televised, prime time game replete with College GameDay and the attention of the college football world. I guess this is one price of becoming relevant. Mediocre programs need not worry about these things and most years we didn’t. Just had to worry about not soiling the sheets.

Anybody think Narduzzi is gonna play it vanilla so he doesn’t show his hand for the next game? Me neither. If they play it simple, it will because they aren’t ready for anything fancier.

My thoughts on the actual game itself are as follows: On offense, the Hoopies are good at QB (JT Daniels) and RB. The WRs are a question mark. But the OL is really good and perhaps the best in the B12. Pitt’s D matches up well with them against the run, but if Daniels is ready to go and they find someone to catch the ball, we will have a challenge. I see this as a push.

On defense, they are good upfront, but things trail off after that. LBs and DBs are a question mark. If Slovis or Patti gets good protection, I like Pitt’s offense. Is this the coming out party for Pitt’s receivers? I think that’s quite possible.

Both teams are facing change in special teams and both lost really good returners. It’s a toss-up.

On the crowd and vibe thing… this will be the most raucous home atmosphere these Pitt players will have experienced.  As the bus rolls down General Robinson Street, they may believe Kenny Chesney is in town. The noise coming from Red 5A alone…

Neither teams’ players have been through a Brawl before and are too young to really feel for it the way prior generations have. But I could see the students and Panther faithful getting the Hoopies on a couple false starts.

Like most openers, I don’t think either team will come out hitting on all cylinders. It might be a little sloppy in fact. But barring a refereeing crew hired by Mike Tranghese, I like Pitt in this game. I gave the points (-6.5), but was not confident in either offense enough to take the over (54 points).

Game 2 – The Johnny Majors Classic Redux  When was the last time Pitt played in two regular season games with their own commemorative logo in the same season?

I’m going to come right out here and say that while I think it’s a big game for two evenly matched teams, I think Pitt probably loses this one. No Rocky Top every time a Vols player does something positive… no running out of the T… we will have Sweet Caroline with boisterous refrains of “Lets Go Pitt!”… and yet I still think the Vols win.

Josh Heupel has had a year to scheme for this game and some folks see Hendon Hooker as a Heisman candidate. Despite his missed throws in the Pitt game, he hit 68% of his throws and had a 31-3 TD/Int ratio last season. And he gets points from me for having the smarts to get away from Justin Fuente.

Like Pitt, the Vols return a lot of starting offensive linemen and the running backs room is good.  But their wide receivers are what I’m most concerned about. Their #1 from last year will be paired up with USC transfer Bru McCoy, who was #1 rated at WR in the country coming out of HS.

My gut tells me Pitt may get torched by the Vol passing game. Pitt dug itself in a hole last year in Knoxville and was able to come back due to Pickett and Addison (along with a great throw by Jared Wayne on a gadget play). I’ll need to see some evidence that we will have similar abilities before changing my view.

All of that said, Pitt can win if they get to Hooker (who I assume will start) consistently, contain him and force him into rushed throws or throwaways. In other words, what we have done to him the last two times we faced him. But we will need to get a lead and keep the Vols offense off the field with a strong running game. It’s a tall order in this era where no lead is safe.

Game 3 – The Panthers Strike Back?  Our lads head to Kalamazoo with revenge on their minds. Western Michigan lost both its QB Kaleb Eleby and WR Skyy Moore, so we got them, right? Its easy to assume a win, especially if Pitt showed a lot in games 1&2 or lost a tough one versus the Vols.

I’m not pencilling this in as an automatic win for a couple reasons. They have some Pittsburgh area kids on the roster who – like last year – want to have a say in the matter. Former Panther Bricen Garner (1st team MAC last year) returns on defense and is joined by 3 other transfers from St Francis… all three are from Pgh.

Then there is the matter of the QB – Norwin’s Jack Salopek. Those from the Pittsburgh area know the kid is a winner – even if from a lower WPIAL class. If one goes back and looks at his recruiting, it looked like he might have chosen Pitt, but perhaps the offer was soft. So he has zero motivation to play a good game against Pitt, right? As we know, the Broncos have a good coach who has the program running well and I’m sure he’d like to give it to Duzz again.

I think they give Pitt some trouble early, but Pitt’s superior talent rises up and ends up winning the game. No surprise upset here, although I predict some here will be upset that the score isn’t more lopsided.

Game 4 – Narduzzi’s Homecoming I cannot imagine (without LSD) a scenario where the Panthers lose to Rhode Island. The disparity in talent is big and they don’t have a great program. Yes, I know its Pitt. It will be a big, confidence building win.

Folks, if you are keeping score at home, that’s an out of conference record at 3-1. I’m guessing many of you might also have projected this on your own. I believe the likelihood of this is 65%. I also believe the likelihood of going 0-4 in this stretch is zero, 1-3 is 10%, and going undefeated is 25%. Please do not ask me to show my work, as my finger is still wet and the wind could change.

And with that, we will also take a look at the ACC slate which can be found in Joe’s ACC games article which will post up in a day or two.

H2P!

2022 Preseason Pitt Women’s Volleyball Report

By John In South Carolina

Pitt’s 2022 women’s volleyball season in almost ready to start.  The Blue-Gold scrimmage will be played Saturday, August 20th, at 1 PM in the Fitz.  The regular season starts on Friday, August 26th with San Diego at Texas A&M’s Invitational.  Pitt’s ACC schedule starts on Friday, September 23rd against UNC at the Fitz.  This is a match I plan to attend in person and actually will be the first time I see Pitt play in their home gym, ever!

I did a Production Loss article for the POV back in June on how much the Pitt roster has changed from last year.  It was patterned on and inspired by PITT-cocks Fan’s great Production Loss articles that have informed and entertained us all summer.  One can view the article under Archives in the June section.  Below is Pitt’s roster for the upcoming season.

PositionNo.PlayerHeightYears of EligibilityNotes
Middle Blocker6Rachel Jepsen6’4″4 
 20Chiamaka Nwokolo6’1″2MB/RS
 21Serena Gray6’2″1 
 11Sabrina Starks6’2″1 
Outside7Julianna Dalton6’5″3 
 8Courtney Buzzerio6’5″1RS/S/6 Pos.
 2Valeria Vazquez Gomez6’1″36 Pos.
 5Cam Ennis6’0″1OH/S
 3Cat Flood6’2″3 
 18Eliana Posada6’2″3RS
Setter1Lexis Akeo5’8″2 
 10Rachel Fairbanks6’0″3OH/6 Pos.
Libero/Defensive Specialist16Dillyn Griffin5’8″4
 4Ashley Browske5’10”2
 12Emmy Klika5’7″3

VolleyballMag.com ranked Pitt’s incoming players #9 in the nation.  The only other ACC team ranked was UNC at #10.  North Carolina State and Duke were among the Honorable Mentions.  This is their take on the players:

“Incoming freshmen: Rachel Jepson, 6-4, MB, Olympus (Holladay, Utah), Club V; Dillyn Griffin, 5-8, libero, Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, California), A4
Transfers: Courtney Buzzerio, 6-5, RS, Grad., Iowa; Cam Ennis, 6-0, OH, Grad., Kansas/Texas A&M; Julianna Dalton, 6-5, OH, Soph., Washington State

Synopsis: Dalton is a 6-5 outside coming from Washington State and trained with Pitt this past spring. “Julianna is a big-time get,” Panthers coach Dan Fisher said. “She has played at a high level in club and college and knows how to work hard. We know she brings a physical presence at the net, but is also committed to being an all-around player. We expect Julianna to have a big impact on our program.” Fisher calls Buzzerio a “proven point-scorer,” and someone who “fills an immediate need,” he said. “We expect her to have a big impact, bringing physicality, experience and leadership.” Ennis will help the Panthers on the left side. “Cam is a much-needed piece for us on the left side,” Fisher noted. Jepson, out of Utah, is a 2022 VolleyballMag.com Fab 50 selection. “Rachel possesses the rare combination of incredible talent and humility,” Fisher said. “We have extremely high expectations and know she can be an elite college volleyball middle blocker.” Griffin is a highly decorated back row player out of Foothill Ranch, California. “I believe this is our most physical and experienced recruiting class to date,” Fisher said. “We have three Power 5 transfers who will have an immediate impact. In addition, we have added two highly ranked freshmen who we expect to compete right away. With this talented group joining our returning players, we are confident in our chances to compete for an ACC championship.””  From the article by Mike Miazga posted at Volleyballmag.com on 8/8/2022.

The most surprising thing about the passage is that we are weak at the left OH position.  Apparently, Dalton, Gomez, Flood, and Posada have not been very impressive there.  If Ennis is our best option, we may not be a strong as a lot of people think.  Ms. Dalton better work on her left side technique if she wants to see a great deal of playing time and become a six-rotation player!

OK now on to our starting 8 players.  I will start with the easiest areas first.  At setter we will have Lexis Akeo and Rachel Fairbanks as Fisher stays with the 6-2.  For now, we will assume Rachel will not play on the front line.  At middle blocker we will have Serena Gray and Chiamaka Nwokolo.  Courtney Buzzerio will take one of our six rotation player positions.  Julianna Dalton will take over the second OH position substitution that Chinaza Ndee held for the last two years giving Pitt a continuous 6’-5” RS.  Next year Julianna needs to make the jump to being a six-position player.  At libero we may have our first competition for position.  Will Emmy Klika displace last year’s starter Ashley Browske?  If Emmy continues the development that she showed through last year, this may be a distinct possibility.

The position most in doubt is the second six rotation player.  The most likely player to fill this would be Valeria Gomez.  Apparently, Cam Ennis is also in the mix for the position based on Fisher’s comments.  Cam is a more experienced back row player than Gomez.  Gomez has the edge in the front row and serving.  Hopefully Gomez can work on her left side attack and take this position.  If one of our setters gets injured then Gomez wins this competition by default as Ennis is our insurance setter.  So that is a summary of our starting lineup.

Who are the next players off the bench?  In the beginning of the season, it will the following.  On the front outsides it would be Curt Flood and/or Valeria Gomez if she loses out to Ennis.  In the backrow it will be the loser of the libero battle.  In the middle it will be Sabrina Stark. Later on in the season I expect the following changes to occur in first-off-the-bench.  Rachel Jepsen will displace Sabrina Starks.  She was the star of the Notre Dame recruits before they canned their coach.  Dan Fisher swooped in and flipped her during Notre Dame’s coaching search.  I expect her to be a 6’-4” version of Serena Gray.  She is supposed to be that good.  She may be brought in as a server as a way to ease her into playing time.  We also should expect to see Dillyn Griffin as Coach Fisher may follow the trend to use more defensive specialists in the back row.  Do not be surprised if we go with a libero and a defensive specialist at the same time especially if we have Courtney Buzzerio in the back as the backrow attacker.

So, who has to perform at or above expectations for Pitt to match last year’s performance?  First, Courtney Buzzerio has to have a year at Pitt like she those has had at Iowa.  She needs to be our number one threat!  Second, Julianna Dalton has to improve over the impressive freshman year at WSU.  If she can become our second six-rotation player THIS year that would be fantastic.  Rachel Fairbanks and Serena Gray have to maintain the high level of play expected of them.  If Julianna cannot make the jump to becoming the six-rotation player, one of the other OHs would need to have a Leketor Member-Meneh like season.  We need three scorers besides the middle blockers on the court at all times.  Last year we had Kayla Lund, Member-Meneh, and Chinaza Ndee.  Lund and Member-Meneh were our left side scorers.

The coaching staff has one change.  Michael Fisher is our volunteer assistant coach replacing Morgan Thomas.   Michael is no relation to Dan Fisher and played his college volleyball at St. Francis in Loretto, PA.  Morgan was hired as an assistant coach at TCU and is their recruiting coordinator.  She made a very wise move spending one year under Fisher even if it was without pay.

Some words about Pitt’s OOC this year.  The toughest team on the schedule is BYU on BYU’s home court.  The Cincinnati match in the BYU tournament also may be a tough match that early in the season.  Ohio State at Pitt will be the second toughest match.  The RPI for the OOC will not be as great as it was last year so Pitt cannot to stumble out of the gate or within the ACC.  The other top two teams in the ACC scheduled their OOC as tough as Pitt.  Georgia Tech also has BYU and Ohio State along with Dayton.  Louisville has an even tougher schedule with Purdue, Kentucky, Stanford, and Xavier.  UNC, for once, actually scheduled two Big Ten teams on their OOC: Michigan and Michigan State.  Duke also has an impressive OOC.

Pitt will be ranked just outside of the top ten at the start of this season and will have to play their way into it.  To do that they would have to be undefeated in the OOC or have only one loss, to BYU.  This is entirely possible.

As the OOC winds up I will publish an update of how Pitt did as well as what I believe Pitt will do in the ACC this year.  Presently I do not see them as one of the top two teams in the conference.  Louisville and Georgia Tech will occupy those two spots.

As always: Hail to Pitt!

2022 Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame Class Announced

PITTSBURGH—University of Pittsburgh Director of Athletics Heather Lyke announced today the 2022 Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame induction class, a highly accomplished 12-member group representing nine different sports.

The honorees, listed in alphabetical order, are:

  • Keisha Demas (Women’s Track and Field)
  • Russ Grimm (Football)
  • Larry Harris (Men’s Basketball)
  • Rickey Jackson (Football)
  • Jerome Lane (Men’s Basketball)
  • Debbie Lewis (Women’s Basketball)
  • Angela Lopez Callahan (Women’s Swimming)
  • Ann Marie Lucanie (Volleyball)
  • Jerry Richey (Men’s Track and Field)
  • Donna DeMarino Sanft (Gymnastics Student-Athlete and Coach)
  • Pat Santoro (Wrestling)
  • Rande Stottlemyer (Wrestling Student-Athlete and Coach; Posthumous)

“This is yet another remarkable class that represents the very best of Pitt’s rich athletics history,” Lyke said. “These individuals wore the Blue and Gold with high distinction, and their achievements continue to inspire us today. Our Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame Dinner is always a memorable evening and this year’s event will be no exception.”

Nominations for the Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame were solicited from the general public. Candidates had to be five years removed from their final year of collegiate competition and not currently be playing professional sports.

The Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame selection committee then evaluated the candidate pool and provided a recommendation on the class to the director of athletics.

The 2022 class will receive induction at the Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame Dinner presented by PNC on Friday, Sept. 30, at Acrisure Stadium. On Saturday, Oct. 1, the inductees will be introduced at Acrisure when the Panthers take on Georgia Tech. For Hall of Fame Dinner ticket information, visit www.pittsburghpanthers.com/halloffame, email events@athletics.pitt.edu or call (412) 648-8889.

2022 Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame Class Biographies

Keisha Demas (Women’s Track and Field)
Demas was a national-caliber performer for Pitt women’s track and field from 1987-91. She finished her accomplished career as a five-time All-American and 14-time Big East champion. Demas earned individual All-America honors in the outdoor 400 meters (1990 and 1991) and indoor 400 meters (1990). She additionally was a member of the two-time All-America outdoor 4×400 relay team (1990 and 1991). Demas helped lead the Panthers to three Big East team championships: the 1989 indoor title and consecutive outdoor crowns (1990-91). She was named the “Outstanding Performer” at the 1991 Big East Indoor Championships.

Russ Grimm (Football)
A member of Pitt’s famed 1977 recruiting class, Grimm was a prominent contributor to the Panthers’ dominant squads over the subsequent four years. As Pitt’s starting center, Grimm was at the heart of an impenetrable offensive front that was considered the gold standard for all of college football. He helped lead the Panthers to a 22-2 record over the 1979 and 1980 seasons, including a pair of Top 10 finishes in the polls. As a senior in 1980, he helped the Panthers to an 11-1 mark and selection by The New York Times computer poll as the country’s No. 1 team. A third-round draft choice of Washington in 1981, Grimm was an original member of the team’s “Hogs” offensive front and started 11 seasons at guard (1981-91). He was part of four Super Bowl berths, including victories in Super Bowls XVII, XXII and XXVI. It was following Washington’s victory in Super Bowl XXVI that Grimm announced his retirement. He was voted to four Pro Bowls (1983-86) and was named to the 1980s All-Decade Team. Grimm received his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in 2010. He went on to an accomplished NFL coaching career and was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ assistant head coach and oversaw the offensive line when they won Super Bowl XL over Seattle, 21-10.

Larry Harris (Men’s Basketball)
One of the most prolific scorers and exciting players in Pitt basketball history, Harris starred for the Panthers from 1974-78. He was a starting forward his final three seasons and led Pitt in scoring each year. Harris is one of just three Pitt players (joining Don Hennon and Billy Knight) to average 20 points per game in three different seasons. He finished his career as Pitt’s all-time leading scorer with 1,914 points and still ranks No. 3 today, 44 years following his final season. Playing before the 3-point line was implemented, Harris scored 30 or more points 14 times at Pitt, including a career-high 39 against Maryland and Syracuse. He was a two-time All-Eastern 8 selection, including in 1977 when he led the league with a 22.9-point scoring average. Harris was a fourth-round NBA draft pick of the Buffalo Braves in 1978. He went on to a nearly three-decade career as an assistant coach at the college level.

Rickey Jackson (Football)
Yet another member of the Panthers’ star-studded 1977 recruiting class, Jackson is one of the most disruptive defenders in the history of the collegiate and pro games. At Pitt, he was a marauding defensive end who wreaked havoc on opposing offenses. Jackson collected 290 career tackles, including a team-high 137 as a senior in 1980, when Pitt boasted the nation’s top-ranked defense. In his final two seasons as a starter (1979-80), Jackson helped Pitt to a 22-2 record and a pair of Top-10 national finishes. The 1980 team was selected by The New York Times computer poll as the country’s No. 1 team at season’s end. A 1981 second-round draft pick by New Orleans, Jackson played an incredible 15 seasons in the NFL (1981-95). Upon his retirement, he ranked third all-time in sacks (128), second in fumble recoveries (28) and fourth in forced fumbles (41). Jackson made six trips to the Pro Bowl and was first team All-Pro four times. His final two pro seasons were played in San Francisco as he helped the 49ers to a 49-26 victory over San Diego in Super Bowl XXIX. Jackson was a member of the 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.

Jerome Lane (Men’s Basketball)
A rugged 6-foot-6 power forward at Pitt from 1985-88, Lane remains one of the most popular players in Pitt’s long basketball history. He shot to stardom as a sophomore when he became the smallest player in 30 years to lead the NCAA in rebounding (13.5 avg.). Lane led the Big East in rebounding for two consecutive seasons (1986-88), becoming the first player to accomplish that feat. More than a board crasher, Lane was also a deft ballhandler and the Panthers’ second-leading scorer in each of his final two seasons. He gained iconic status for his tomahawk dunk against Providence that shattered a backboard at Pitt’s Fitzgerald Field House, delaying a national ESPN telecast for more than 30 minutes. Teamed with center Charles Smith, Lane helped form one of the nation’s most imposing frontcourt tandems. The duo would lead Pitt to consecutive Big East titles (1987 and 1988) and NCAA berths. A two-time All-American, Lane finished his college career with 1,217 points and 970 boards. He was a first-round NBA draft selection by the Denver Nuggets in 1988 and later played for the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Debbie Lewis (Women’s Basketball)
Whether it was as a scorer, distributor or defender, Lewis was truly a do-it-all star for Pitt women’s basketball from 1977-82. Four decades following her final collegiate game, she remains the program’s all-time assists leader with 638. Her 186 assists during the 1981-82 season is also still a record. As a scorer, Lewis compiled an astounding 1,941 points—all before the advent of the collegiate 3-point shot—to rank fourth in Pitt annals. Her offensive prowess did not take away from her production on the defensive end, evidenced by her 250 career steals, still the second-highest total in school history. In fact, she still owns single-game records for assists (18) and steals (10).  As a senior in 1981-82, Lewis led the Panthers in scoring (16.6 avg.), assists (a school-record 186) and steals (63).

Angela Lopez Callahan (Women’s Swimming)
Callahan made history in 1974 when she earned All-America honors in the 200-yard breaststroke, becoming the first Pitt women’s swimmer to earn that lofty stature. She repeated the achievement in 1975 competing in the 100-yard breast. Callahan would also distinguish herself on the national stage. Representing her native country of Puerto Rico, she competed in the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico as well as the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. As an Olympian, she competed in the 100 and 200-meter breaststroke events, and as a member of the 100-meter freestyle and 100-meter medley relay teams.

Ann Marie Lucanie (Volleyball)
Lucanie set impeccable standards for Pitt volleyball that still resonate today. She earned a lengthy list of individual accolades from 1990-93, including All-America honors as a senior from the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). Upon the conclusion of her career, she owned the Pitt record for career kills (1,815), a standard that stood for 14 years and ranks second today. Her name is etched throughout the Panthers’ record book, ranking fourth in career attacks (4,085), fourth in aces (148), sixth in digs (1,480) and eighth in hitting percentage (.308). She also set the school single-match record for kills with 37, a mark that still stands. Lucanie was a three-time Big East Player of the Year (1991-93) and four-time Big East Tournament MVP (1990-93). Her high-impact freshman debut earned her the 1990 Big East Rookie of the Year award. Lucanie led the Panthers to a 101-39 overall record (.721) and 26-2 Big East mark (.929) during her career. Pitt claimed four Big East regular-season championships and four Big East Tournament titles during that span, advancing to the NCAA Tournament each season.

Jerry Richey (Men’s Track and Field)
Richey is considered the finest distance runner in Pitt’s long and celebrated track and field history. During a career that spanned from 1967-71, his list of accomplishments includes earning All-America stature five times, winning two NCAA championships, achieving a sub-four-minute mile, anchoring a world record-setting relay team and reaching the finals of the 1968 U.S. Olympic Trials. Richey captured NCAA titles in the 3000 meters (1970) and as a member of the Panthers’ distance medley relay team (1971). In a February 1971 meet at Delaware, Richey ran a 3:59.7 mile as the anchor leg, spurring his distance medley relay squad to a world-record time of 9:39.7. When he ran his initial sub-four-minute mile at age 19, he became one of only 27 Americans at that time to accomplish the feat.  

Donna DeMarino Sanft (Gymnastics Student-Athlete and Coach)
Sanft made an indelible impact at Pitt, first as a gymnastics student-athlete, then as the program’s head coach, and later as a longtime athletics administrator. As a Pitt gymnast (1970-74), Sanft was a three-time Most Valuable Performer and three-time captain. She was selected Pitt’s 1974 Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year (now the Blue-Gold Award), a year prior to women’s recipients joining their male counterparts in having their names inscribed on on the famed Varsity Walk. In 1974, women’s gymnastics was launched as an intercollegiate sport at Pitt under the direction of the athletic department. Reflective of her impact as a student-athlete, Sanft was hired as the first women’s varsity gymnastics coach in Pitt history at the age of 22. Leading that program for the next 12 years (1974-86), Sanft posted an 86-57-1 record and was twice selected as Eastern Collegiate Coach of the Year. She directed the Panthers to a Top 10 national ranking in 1979 and Top 20 rankings in 1981, 1982, 1984 and 1986. Sanft also coached Pitt’s only NCAA champion in women’s gymnastics, Lisa Shirk (1982). Sanft then went on to a highly impactful and wide-ranging career as an administrator for Pitt Athletics from 1986-2014.
 
Pat Santoro (Wrestling)
Santoro is one of the Panthers’ most accomplished individual athletes ever, regardless of sport. He finished his career (1986-89) as a four-time All-American, the only wrestler in Pitt history to accomplish that feat. Competing at 142 pounds, Santoro claimed two consecutive NCAA titles (1988 and 1989). He compiled 20 total NCAA Tournament victories, still a Pitt standard more than three decades later. Santoro is the winningest wrestler in Pitt history with a 167-13 record. As a junior, he went an astonishing 48-0 en route to his first NCAA championship. Santoro also won three Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) championships while at Pitt. Internationally, he was a four-time member of the U.S. National Team. Santoro was an alternate for the 1996 Olympic Team and 1999 World Team. He placed fourth at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials, third at the 1992 Olympic Trials and was runner-up at the 1992 U.S. Open Freestyle Championships.
 
Rande Stottlemyer (Wrestling Student-Athlete and Coach; Posthumous)
Stottlemyer’s association with Pitt wrestling spanned nearly four decades. He was a three-time All-American for the Panthers from 1974-78, compiling a career record of 68-16-2 and winning the 1976 Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) 134-pound title. Following his 1978 graduation from the university, Stottlemyer served Pitt as an assistant coach for one year before taking over as head coach in 1979. He led the Panthers for 34 seasons and retired in 2013 as the winningest coach in program history with a 304-231-12 record. Stottlemyer produced 56 EWL individual champions, 33 All-Americans and three national champions. He was selected the EWL Coach of the Year five times. His final four years as Pitt’s head coach ranked among the program’s finest. During that span, the Panthers won three EWL regular-season championships (2010, 2011, 2012) and three EWL Tournament titles (2011, 2012, 2013). Pitt placed 15th in the nation in each of his final two seasons as head coach. Stottlemyer’s many Hall of Fame recognitions include selection to the EWL Hall of Fame and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame’s Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award.