Byline: Dr. Tom Richards
I hear from other Pitt fans all the time; “you’re dreaming, what a naïve cheerleader you are, Pitt will never win another National Championship again”, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. Well you know what, nobody, not one of us is truly clairvoyant, so spare me your criticism concerning my enthusiasm for our University’s football program.
Like you, I can’t see the future either and I’ll be the first to admit it when my optimistic predictions for success of this team fall flat. That being said, I do know history and in studying history, trends and tendencies present themselves, and when identified, they can shed light on those factors that had a bearing on that history that was previously created.
So when I hear the arguments that the big money in college sports is an insurmountable hurdle for all of those “also ran programs” that prohibits them from ever being able to win championships, I call that out as BS!
That idea was shown to be invalid in this year’s NCAA basketball tourney, where Gonzaga beat out USC for the opportunity to bring down the Tarheels in the championship game. David against Goliath and they almost pulled it off too. But I already hear the rebuttal:
“… yeah but that’s basketball, football is different that’s where the BIG $$$$ is generated. No way a program like Pitt could possibly match up with powerhouse elite programs like Alabama, OSU, or Florida State”!
Once again I call BS.
If you know your history you would recognize the fact the this year’s NCAA FBS champions are relatively new to that rarefied air of both big time elite college football programs as well as past National Championships. Clemson did the impossible this season, and they did it against the very best of the best in defeating Alabama for the crown.
Clemson in their entire history of over 120 years of playing football has only won two National Championships. They have only had three undefeated seasons in that long history as well. And we all know who spoiled their “undefeated” National Championship season this past year, don’t we?
So spare me the pessimistic, “It can’t be done” attitude. I know Pitt will win another National Championship for us, I just have no idea how long it will take to happen. The difference maker isn’t the money honey, the difference maker is and always has been the people!
The difference makers for Clemson start with Dabo Sweeney. It’s his leadership, passion and enthusiasm that was and remains as the engine to this Clemson football machine. Now he’s surrounded by an entire organization of administrators, coaches and players who are also all on the same page as him. But without that inspirational coach at the helm like Sweeney, the championships will rarely if ever materialize.
On that note, here is a great video piece that was produced locally back in 1989 that honored Pitt’s first 100 years of Panther Football history.
It is a very prolific history with many a legendary coach playing an essential role in Pitt’s football successes. Names like Pop Warner, Dr. Jock Sutherland (a dentist by professional degree, BTW), Johnny Majors and Jackie Sherrill.
There are multiple undefeated seasons, multiple National Championships, and numerous HOF players. Overall we have a very rich and storied history to our University’s football program. It is a glorious tradition to aspire to.
Like I said it’s about the people. That very concept was verbalized in this presentation by then AD Cas Myslinski, when interviewed about the details of bringing in Johnny Majors, he stated “it’s not about the money, it’s about the people”.
And Johnny Majors was the right guy for the job, and back in 1972 that job was an enormous one! A seemingly impossible task just to produce a winning program again let alone to get Pitt it’s ninth National Championship in the span of four short years! But it happened!
If you are a Pitt football fan, do yourself a favor and find the time to watch the above hour-long presentation about Pitt Football’s first 100 years, you will not be disappointed.
But who cares what the hell happened way back in the 1930s when Jock Sutherland was crushing the competition and winning multiple national championships? That was then, this is now. What bearing does such a historical perspective lend to modern times?
Well, it demonstrates in no uncertain terms what our University has accomplished on the football field in the past. And in evaluating that history, it portrays exactly what is required to become a champion. That analysis produces the same conclusions today that were apparent back in Jock Sutherland’s time, in that with the right people; possessing the correct attitude, willing and determined to prepare and determined to win, with a man at the helm providing the inspirational leadership, success can be the result!
In essence the formula always remains the same, determination, dedication, preparation and will. A team possessing a winning attitude creates success.
Money is not part of that equation my friends.
That doesn’t mean that money isn’t required to aid in that endeavor, it is! It’s a necessary component but not an absolute requirement that guarantees it.
And Pitt right now has that money required anyhow. It comes from a home run by the ACC this year by capturing both the football and basketball National Championships. As you probably know, the ACC shares all of that money evenly with all Conference members. Believe me, it was a Godsend when Pitt was invited to join the ACC a few years ago, that alone initiated an entirely new era in Pitt athletics that we should all fully appreciate.
Now, here we sit in 2017, with a brand new female AD in the person of Heather Lyke, a Chancellor that has committed to putting the emphasis back into our University’s athletic programs and a Conference affiliation that is second to none. Pitt is on the verge of being “it” in football once again. I can see it on the horizon.
This coach of ours understands Pitt’s history too. Coach Narduzzi comes from a football coaching family, right here in our own backyard of Youngstown, Ohio. He grew up during those years of Pitt’s last heyday period when Pitt WAS the elite program, not just dreaming to get to that level.
Coach Duzz knows what it takes to become a champion and he is forging that attitude of knowledge, preparation and tenacity in this team of his. That is how you end up being the only team to beat the National Champions in their own house.
They call it Death Valley for a reason, and Pitt went in there and played a game for the history books bringing home a fabulous signature win for Pat Narduzzi.
I wonder in a couple of years from now will historians be reflecting on that second Pat Narduzzi season, back in 2016, when the Panthers once again renewed the rivalry with hated Penn State after a 15 year hiatus and came away with a victory. Then followed that six weeks later when he shocked the world with that Clemson win.
Will they mark that season as the launching point when this new era of Pitt Football found itself. Will they decide that we were going to once again ascend to the pinnacle of the college football world for another round of fame and glory? Who knows? I don’t, you don’t, Coach Duzz doesn’t nor do his players. No one can see the future.
But one thing this team is beginning to do is to believe in is itself and in so doing something special is starting to come into clear focus as well, that being the vision that Coach Narduzzi has for his football team. It isn’t a novel idea; it’s been accomplished many times before, right here at Pitt, in becoming a championship team.
Great Pitt football coaches from the past, for sure, have impressed that championship vision on their charges and the results are self-evident when their teams internalized that vision and decided to do what it takes to become champions.
Does that mean that this squad will do the same. Who knows? But don’t ever tell me that this squad can’t accomplish the impossible! I’ve seen it done with my own eyes back in the 70s and it was a beautiful thing to be a part of.
Being in the stands of Death Valley after that Blewitt kick secured the Pitt victory at Clemson rekindled a feeling in my soul that I have not felt for many decades, since those Pitt Football glory days of my youth.
I’ve waited, patiently, while this football program has hibernated in mediocrity for far too many years. Could this coach be the next Jock Sutherland or Jackie Sherrill? We will see in time.
But while we follow the progress of his tenure, let us not forget the first requirement of being a champion as demonstrated by history; first you have to believe!
So when we get together as a Pitt POV group to play some golf, tip a few beers and break bread together, let’s just permit ourselves some freedom to dream. Release your own imaginations to fantasize of the good fortunes that could befall our beloved football team in the near future.
This Spring game will be fun to attend, especially in light of us being able to observe all of the unknown talent that will be on the field of play this Saturday. That potential is significant as Narduzzi has recruited well. The experience is absent for so many of these new recruits however.
That’s where the anticipation factor comes in. Allow yourself to imagine how this team is going to develop over the next year or two rather than dwelling on so many of those disappointing seasons from the past. Pitt’s future is now bright, maybe exceptionally bright, only time will tell for sure. But to fully enjoy and appreciate that process first you have to do something, first you have to believe.
Hail to Pitt!