Panther Fan’s Look-Back Saturday; July 9th

Pittsburgher Sam Sciullo, Jr is a very good and entertaining sports writer who has a love for the University of Pittsburgh and especially its sports teams.  Listed in that author’s link are the books he has published in this genre’. My favorite of his by far is the “University of Pittsburgh Football Vault” because it is not only informative but just fun as hell to read.

7167446Wait, let’s instead say ‘to read and experience’ because that is what you do once you open the front cover.  It is a multi-media book and three dimensional also. It has entries and inserts like these as described here:

Explore the book’s dozens of sleeves and pockets to get your hands on a photo of the 1910 team that didn’t allow a point, a 1910 copy of the alma mater and fight song, a roster from Warner’s 10-0 1917 team that had only two players heavier than 200 pounds, a 1930 banquet program honoring Pitt’s Eastern championship team, the Panthers’ 1930 Rose Bowl itinerary, …etc.

Staring you in the face when you turn to the book’s Forward section is the late, great Carroll “Beano” Cook who was the Panther’s Sports Information Director ( “Director of Media Relations” now) from 1956 until 1966. beano_cookNo one, absolutely no one, knew more about Pitt sports than he did and that is evident in the eight paragraphs he wrote in the Forward.

I especially love that he says it was good that he left the SID job in 1966 because  “The three consecutive 1-9 seasons that followed might have forced me to jump out of the Cathedral of Learning to put me out of my misery.

Folks, I was a baby when I started going to the Pitt home games (my parents were the Ass’t President of the Graduate School of Business and a tenured professor and my mother was the Ass’t Dean of Women) and I was nine through 11 years old when those dreadful seasons took place.  I remember full well the pissed-offedness of my extended family on those fall Saturdays… and the booze soaked Saturday evenings.

Back then Pitt’s student publication ,“The Owl”,  called Pitt’s 1965 season “The year of the big score… for the Panther’s opponents!”  It was that bad.

However there were flashes of joy in the football program even with that black cloud of losing covering pretty much the whole of the 1960s.  In that decade we averaged 3.4 wins per season with the 1963 being a pleasant and surprising blip.

Our versatile QB in ’63, Fred Mazurek, led the team in both passing (949 yards) and rushing (646yards).  Pretty far cry from today’s brand of football isn’t it? At least in terms of offensive production.

1963 schedule

^^ Look at that!  Through the muck and mire of a below .500 decade where this season was the only one with a winning record suddenly this quality level of play pops up. Too bad we couldn’t have seen something like that in Chryst’s second year.

Sandwiched in between a five win year in 1962 and then followed by 1964’s three win year , the ’63 season shined brightly.  The key to that season was the Penn State game at Pitt Stadium played on Dec 7th.  It was originally scheduled for Nov. 23rd but was postponed for two weeks due to the assassination of JFK.  Note the unintended bye week in the schedule on Nov 23rd because of the rescheduling.

Going into that PSU game we were 8-1 and riding a four game winning streak – with our only loss at the hands of 9-2 Navy and Roger Staubach in the prelude to his Heisman Trophy season.  It was also in an interesting note the only December game played in Pitt Stadium’s 75 year history.

We won that game and at 9-1 waited for the major bowls to come calling...  That didn’t happen over the weekend so on Monday Morning the Post-Gazette ran the article below and christened the Panthers  “The best Snubbed Football Team“. The articles about not being award a bowl berth are on Page 20.  But here is some of it.

Best Snubbed

But to say they were completely snubbed wasn’t exactly true – Pitt was offered minor bowls but the players chose to skip the preseason.  Remember that back then the bowls weren’t huge productions with ‘swag bags’ and 5* hotels.

Interestingly enough HC Johnny Michelosen’s final two years after that great ’63 season he went 3-5-2 then 3-7 and he was fired after that.  What a strange aberration but that is why we Pitt fans stay fans and stay on the edge of our seats – because we never know what could happen.

I have to show you this.  It is the entry of the Pitt 1963 Yearbook Athletics intro (page 195) and is the most perfect description of Pitt’s On-Campus issue I have seen in years – it’s hilarious also. Here is the link so you can read it in full.  But for now I put it into a podcast so you can enjoy right away.

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7 thoughts on “Panther Fan’s Look-Back Saturday; July 9th

  1. Reed, got The Vault as a gift from my kids. Great history book of Pitt football. My Dad always talked of the glory days of Pitt when Jock Sutherland coached the Panthers. He was born in 1912 so Dad grew up during those years that Jock coached during the 20s into the 30s. Said the Panthers were so dominant that they had trouble scheduling some local schools in the region. The people who comment about Pitt only being good for a bread period in the 70s & 80s have no historical perspective. Those real old Sutherland days is when the Panthers were truly elite.

    BTW, after the previous discussion about the future of James Conner comeback & predictions to that point, I thought it appropriate to supply the following link to the ACC Network.

    http://www.theacc.com/video/577bbae2e4b03a7c4db291b7

    As I pontificated previously, yeah I’m thinking James is coming back strong, Conner Strong.

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    1. Great link Dr. Tom, I’m all fired up. Can’t wait for this season to begin. I do hope that Pitt can sell out Heinz field for their opener. Pitt should offer a bonus purchase plan for all those that buy a ticket for the Villanova game. Maybe something like a half price ticket to any other game besides the Penn State game.

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  2. In in write-up from the P-G, look at the next to last line and you see a name that caught my attention. For the Penn State score it says Liske passed to Sandusky. Is that the famous Jerry Sandusky.

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  3. Reed – thanks for the history lesson. Good read after my round of golf yesterday.

    Doc – wow, the ACC Network did a fine job hyping Pitt FB with that video – thanks for sharing it – I just finished watching it this morning with coffee. I agree with you, the excitement is high and Conner is Strong. JC wants to win, HCPN wants to & knows how to win, the Pitt admin are making winning moves and us Pitt fans from the 70’s and 80’s “deserve” a winner again.

    Why not this year? The 1963 season wasn’t seen to be in the cards…

    HTP!

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  4. Excellent video Dr Tom.

    I used Reed’s link to look at the yearbooks when I was a student. Hate to say the the yearbook was as pathetic as our sports teams back then. Not even a heading for athletics in 1969. My High School yearbook had much better coverage of sports. No team photos or lists of players in the Owl, just a few highlights.

    Dramatically shows how little sports were valued.

    A few years ago I took an executive course at PSU. Went to Rec Hall for nostalgia since I had played there while at Pitt. Throughout their main corridor there were photos of every team in every sport going back over 100 years. They had and have a commitment to their athletes. At Pitt, Athletics was an afterthought.

    Hopefully Barnes will change the culture.

    The article that Reed posted brought back memories of my time at Pitt. Going to the stadium early to save space for the frat brothers. Smuggling in a half barrel of beer and dressing like a student.

    I remember angry (and drunk) students throwing empty booze bottle and them crashing on the track in disgust of the team’s performance.

    Pretty lax security back then.

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  5. gc – so you were one of those Frat Boys who hogged the seats!!! 🙂 My first memory of Pitt Stadium as a small lad was the clinking of a gin bottle rolling down the steps – and the game hadnt even started.

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