“Now Sir! Time doth bring sad changes, for people often change and seldom do better”

When I was in my 20s there was a West Coast fusion band I loved named Tower of Power and one of their hit songs was titled “What is Hip?”   Here is the refrain from that…

“What is hip?
Tell me, tell me if you think you know
What is hip?
If you was really hip
The passing years would show
You into a hip trip
Maybe hipper than hip
But what is hip?”

The point is that being that “hip” is flexible, it differs and is unique to you.  You can be hip one day and things change and you are on the outside looking in. Unless you create your own style.  Then you are hipper than hip because you own it.

I immediately thought of that on Friday when I was reading the comments to that article written about the aftermath of the Bowl loss up in NYC. The phrase SOP or “Same Old Pitt” came up, as it regularly does, about a hundred times a day when talking about Pitt football

I wrote then that SOP ‘has no real definition and a thousand faces‘ because I think that it is one phrase we throw out, usually in dismay, as it is seen and processed through our own individual lens.  If those lenses are blue and gold then you most probably didn’t see much SOP over the course of the season that just ended.

However, the more pessimistic fans saw SOP under every bush and around every corner from September until last Wednesday.  It is a hard question and answers differ so let’s take a look at the Pitt football program itself before we start to try to pin an answer down.

When I look at Pitt football history I see four distinct eras.  The “Old Glory Days” which is pre-WWII and when we had giants like Jock Sutherland and Pop Warner striding around Oakland and winning national titles.  Eight of those to be exact.  For me, since I was a student at Pitt in the 1970s those day were to far removed for me to have any feelings for other than as a fan of Pitt history as I have always been.

But for my parents and grandparents, Pitt students and administrators all, those were their Glory Days and they never stopped talking about them so I grew up hearing every story and cliché there was about The Pitt Football Powerhouse in those days of my  youth.

For them as students in the 1920s to the 1940s “Same Old Pitt” was pretty freaking fantastic.  Take a look back at those days via this site.  We had eight straight years with eight or more wins which is quite the accomplishment considering they only played a nine game schedule.

Pitt’s second era , let’s call it Pitt’s ‘modern era’, was from the 1950 up to the 1970s.  There are a few of us older folks on here who have that time period as a basis for our ‘hands on’ Pitt experience.  That is when I was on-campus; Dan 72 and other readers also have that period as our student frame of reference. 

We saw and were close enough to the worst and the best of what ever happened in Pitt Stadium including the decade of 1965-1974 when we averaged only 2.8 wins per year.  I went to every home game from 1955 until 1978 and heard all about the dismal ’60s. Then Pitt turned things around and ramped the program up to give us those glorious winning seasons run under Johnny Majors.  He took us to the pinnacle of college ball with an undisputed national championship.

So of course we know first hand how wide and savage the swings of Pitt football can be.  But that was also a spoiling time for us because after we left school Pitt did something they didn’t normally do – they kept winning for another stretch of time.

With Coach Jackie Sherrill and Oakland’s own star QB Dan Marino and those great supporting casts they had, mostly from the local tri-state area and so were hometown favorites, Pitt ripped off a three-year 33-3 record and was on top of the world.  Now we had a “New Glory Days”.

Then came what I like to call the “Post-’80” past. I look at that as from when Foge Fazio was fired until when Walt Harris was hired to take the program over from a faltering Paul Hackett.  Pitt had  an average at best record during that period with an eight win season stuck in the middle of mostly four and five win years.

But that’s not so bad in comparison to the decade from Hackett’s arrival in 1990 until 1999 when Pitt averaged only 4.4 wins per year; another mediocre at best time in Pitt history.  We’ve had our share of those, haven’t we?

But since we are discussing the ‘Same Old Pitt’ syndrome now we have to have a firm time span to use as a reference for us to look back from today and so I think 1997-2016, those 20 years, is a good basis for that.

It has been a weird 20 years for sure. Some of you younger readers on here went to school back then; we have commenters who were students during the totally ridiculous and in my opinion embarrassing “Back to the Future” or  the “Majors II” years when we had 3, 3, 2 and 4 wins.  That sucked for sure and I feel for you guys.

But we have also seen some pretty interesting and sometimes amazing stuff happen with the program from our last five real head coaches. That’s right, five working head coaches in the last 20 years beginning with Walt Harris followed by Dave Wannstedt, Todd Graham, Paul Chryst and now Pat Narduzzi.

That change-over is part of why I think it is hard to get a true handle on what SOP actually means because the main circumstances of Pitt football kept morphing so much. Which ironically created its own SOP conditions regarding staff stability – there was none.  It wasn’t just the HCs who changed places, it was the accompanying seven or eight staff and position coaches also.

Throw in two separate Chancellors and what will soon be a total three different Athletic Directors and you see that when the ground kept shifting under Pitt’s feet its hard to get a purchase and move forward.

In the paragraph above I count what had to be least 70 different personnel changes over that 20 years. I’m not talking about minor actors like departmental staff positions but people who had worked directly with the players themselves or were responsible for plans, programs and policies that directly impacted the players and the football program.

I’m not a college football historian but I’d like to know if any other D1 program ever had to deal with such constantly changing circumstance that Pitt has had to contend with especially in the past six years.

Yet through all of that we didn’t see the team or the program tank as we had seen Pitt do in those time periods directly before the Harris hire.  We fans currently think things are not up to par, have been mostly negative and worse of all it has been SOP!  But aside from a singular two win season in 1997 we have had only five seasons where we won less than 6 games in twenty years – those were with a minimum of five wins. 

Get that?  Aside from one really bad year the worst of it was five wins per season.

Folks – there are many, many programs who slide well below the .500 mark with none of those negative factors Pitt had to deal with.  Some programs have prolonged losing seasons.  Some powerhouse programs dip below the break even line with no external factors pressing on them at all. 

For example Texas just had two 5 win seasons in the last two years. Michigan had 3, 5 and 5 wins seasons in the last nine years. Stanford had 1, 4 and 5 wins in that same period.  It has happened all over college ball with programs great and small – yet not with Pitt in a long time.

Remember that lead-in quote from above ‘… for people often change and seldom do better”  Well, that’s what happened to those big dog programs.  They changed and quickly and not for the better. 

Yet Pitt has a few 6 and 7 win seasons lately and we fans are tearing our hair out thinking that how bad that is and that nothing can be done to make things better.  I do find it funny that the coach we all point to for having the winningest seasons in the last 20 years, Dave Wannstedt with his 9, 10 and 8 win years also had our last stretch of 5 win years.

Things were bad then for Pitt, but under the same coach things changed and we got better.  Thus is life in sports.

So while we may be pointing to this year’s second consecutive eight win season and cry “Same Old Pitt” that isn’t entirely true. Yes, there may be a semblance of SOP because we didn’t progress in the number of wins from one year to the other.  And it may be SOP because we lost a second bowl game we should have won; of course Lady Justice has the PSU and Clemson games on the other side of her scales in that regard.  But really this version of SOP ain’t all that bad recent history-wise.

That’s the more macro view. Let’s put a larger magnification lens in our Pitt glasses and look at this last season in particular.

Two things jump out right away when I think about 2016.  We had an eight game winning season and we set historical records on offense.  Those are two damn good things to have accomplished my friends. I think it is safe to say that ending up 10th nationally in scoring 41 points a game is a real accomplishment.

This comes on the heels of these last three offenses we had with two different OCs:

2105 – 28.2 ppg (68th)

2104 – 31.8 ppg (46th)

2103 – 26.3 ppg (80th)

I’d say there was positive change there and a pretty dramatic one at that.  Hell, even the ‘dropped like a rock’ defense we had wasn’t SOP – it was worse.

I am not the biggest Pat Narduzzi fanatic.  I think he was a good hire and has done a good job but I haven’t been over the moon about his actually game day coaching at all.  I wrote in the preseason that I wanted to see one more thing out of him; something that he didn’t get done in 2015 and that was to win a ‘big’ conference game.

Well he did that in beating #2  and possible National Champs Clemson on their home turf.  That wasn’t SOP.  Yes, we have had dramatic wins in the recent past.  2007’s 13-9 win over WVU comes to mind as does our 41-38 five TD pass win over ND back in 2004.  But those were high points in a season with no other big wins.  Narduzzi beat Clemson and also beat arch-rival Penn State earlier in the year and that wasn’t SOP either.

One of my benchmarks of a good head coach is how he handles the players off the field and how well they respond to his personal leadership efforts.  Coach Narduzzi has had a solid 18 months without a player arrest – that isn’t SOP, but is a great thing to have accomplished. 

Narduzzi also kisses his players on the face on national TV.  That isn’t SOP but it got the job done when needed.

So through my lens I think this has been a darn good year in a lot of respects.  If I had to say we saw SOP in any way I’d say that it was that we couldn’t capitalize on our great offense to win 10 or 11 regular season games because our defense dragged us down so badly. It truly was horrid.

Maybe that act of not being able to completely fulfill promises, in this case the promise of having a better defense then we did in 2015, is somewhat SOP and kept a good season from being a great one.  Just as we couldn’t close the deals earlier in the decade by not being able to hold leads against Cincinnati and UCONN with those losses costing us conference championships – this season we couldn’t stop anyone’s passing game enough to win a conference championship either.

Oh – here’s the last bit of that song…

As you striving to find the right road
There’s one thing you should know
What’s hip today
Might become passe

HTP!

384 thoughts on “What Exactly is Same Old Pitt (and Do We Have It?)

  1. Ok upitt I will agree to that.
    Wwb–need speed that is why PN recruiting Fla and D.C. Area is a good thing instead of solely focusing on WPA.

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  2. Holy cow, that sure was a neat win by USC! By golly, I sure was happy that those darn Nitters got their bum bums paddled by those Son of a gun Trojans!

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  3. On Facebook the nitters were doing their “We are…” stuff with 2 minutes left.

    How about “We are – DEFEATED!”

    Many nitters were talking about how they were better than Washington – well, USC beat you both. So SHUT UP!

    Oh and Pitt beat you too!

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  4. OJ didn’t do it.
    All a scam.
    Just like Joe knew.
    Peachy Paterno for one and all.
    Let’s put the statue in the library, for Joe cared about education like no other man since Socrates.

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  5. Robert Foster comes home and joins Weah with Brown and Clark to average 50 points a game at Pitt, coach says defense, we don’t need no stinkin defense.

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  6. Now I dont think this loss will sway any recruits. Nor do I think a win would have either. But we got bragging rights in the State. I do think a healthy Pitt would have beaten USC. If Pitt’s O would just play more ball control, our D would be on the field as much. Cant tell you how much a fast scoring O does disservice to a D. Thats why I’m not sad to see Canada leave. More ball control is the answer. Less gimmicks and smoke and mirrors. The big play still exists with remaining and incoming talent on the O. But you dont have to go for the home run on every series.

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  7. Why didn’t McSorearm swing for the fences when he threw his interceptions. Players take on the persona of their coach. Their coach is a poor winner and a sore loser!

    Dairy College choked on a rose pedal. Their db’s couldn’t turn their heads either. I have figured it out. On Xbox, you don’t turn your head while trying to defend. As such, no player ever learns to turn his head.

    Glad you all covered!

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  8. Need to get that OC hired to get to workon the newterminology for the 4 th time in the last 4 yrs or 3 times in 3 years excluding Joe Rudolph.. road trip to State College will be here before yinz know it!

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  9. Would you come home and use a year to get in position to get drafted by getting a chance to play or stay at Bama , get an NC ring, and no realistic shot at draft?

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  10. I think Franklinstein ran a hot hand.
    His true coaching g will come out sooner rather than later.
    He was, remember, on the Nitter hot seat.
    Urban and the boys will eat his lunch next year.

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  11. Better D line next year will also take pressure off the corners. Better corners will prevent the big play. Better linebackers can win games. Steelers formula. I’m confident that Nard Dog will figure it out with his own players. Our O doesnt need to score 35 points a game to have the team win.

    I do believe we have a good chance in Creepy Valley next year against the Pedos.

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  12. I believe that Pitt will make a good choice for AD and OC. This Pedo loss has me encouraged. The stars have aligned for Pitt.

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  13. FWIW, Mike Caprara is part of a group of CFB players being honored at the Sugar Bowl for their off-the-field work. Don’t know if it will be on TV

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  14. One thing I will take from that game, no wonder the qb transferred to Pitt. That said, not many are better than that kid, so maybe our transfer is pretty good, just not in that rarified class?

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  15. As many comment on was there a coaching change with this being the new guys qb. We have been fortunate with Savage and NP. Of course not every 5 star QB works out – Anthony ‘Dumber than a Box of Rocks; Morrelli.

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  16. For 350K a month, Michael ‘ the perv’ Jackson would still be alive.
    Why did that whack hire a cardiologist?
    Would have given half that dough to Pitt so they could have hired Lynn Swann for AD.
    Hope Randy Juhle reaches out to him.
    All he can do is hang up.

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  17. Kinda ironic that the pedos lost the same way they lost to Pitt…by trying another long bomb pass. They try that play more than the Steelers….

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  18. TX – me too. In fact, this year we went into Death Valley and beat the #2 team in the country, they were undefeated and may win the NC next week.

    So, creepy valley next year will be about keeping your pants on, playing Pitt’s brand of FB and smashing the nitters in the mouth.

    HTP!

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  19. No doubt Canada’s creativity confused PSU for the first half which was just enough. We will always be in his debt for that.

    Allowed PSU to get screwed by the selection committee. And revealed the hypocrisy and ended the mystique of tOSU.

    New OC can catch lightning in a bottle again.

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  20. Watching Auburn vs Oklahoma – Auburn has Co-OC’s – one is an Auburn alumni and the other played for Arkansas.

    Maybe we don’t have a new OC yet cause he’s still coaching…

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  21. I think PSU coach lost this game. Only needed a field goal, lets the clock run down, has QB throwing deep and has 2 timeouts.

    Steelers need to get USC QB (RS Freshman).

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  22. Does anybody else get mad when an announcer mentions that Oklahoma QB “White” that somehow beat Larry Fitzgerald out for the Heisman?

    Miles Sanders lost his first year of eligibility sitting behind Barkley. He will sit again next year barring injury. He was passed up for 2nd string RB in tonight’s game.

    McSorearm is like Dave Kingman. Swing for the fences, but strikes out a lot more than hits. Would have been a good punt if they woulda tackled him. Blewitt would have split the uprights too!!

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  23. That clown White couldn’t carry Larry’s jock….a complete disgrace he won.

    We lose a lot of players to graduation but for the most part it will be addition by subtraction. Narduzzi didn’t want to burn red shirts.

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  24. One final comment, the media hype over the best division in college football, you know, the BiG east, went 0 for, yep, not a single bowl win, what a joke!

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  25. Agreed. Just read biggy big10 east went 0-5 in bowls. The east has scheduled three crew puffs and then heats up Maryland, Rutgers, Indiana and MSU and you have at a minimum, 8 wins.

    Saw Robert Foster sitting next to the water tank, passing time with a GA during last game. He isn’t even playing special teams. He will get his second ring however.

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  26. Auburn going down…..all we need now is for one more SEC team to go down to put the ACC fully in the drivers seat. If we had won our bowl game this would be the best bowl year ever.

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  27. Huff, you don’t think Clemson can beat Bama? They have the linemen to do it. Bama beats everyone else because they can dominate at the line of scrimmage.

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  28. @Jackagain January 2, 2017 at 11:38

    Caption for the caricatures?
    Perform evil, hear no evil, look past any evil.

    Any other ideas?

    Like

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