This is an article which entails some heavy lifting in the reading department so it may be best taken in chunks rather than sitting down for the whole shebang at one time. But do take a very close look at the Title Photo (Oakland in the 1930s) before you get into the linked articles.
For a weekend’s reading I have included two excellent and well-written Saturday Evening Post articles about the University of Pittsburgh and our football program’s history back in the 1930s and 1940s. Before you click on those let me add a few things about why I did this and why I did it today.
I truly feel like Pitt is on the cusp of having to make some pretty hard and maybe unpopular decisions about just where the Football program fits in with the rest of the Athletic Department and even more importantly where it fits in relation to the rest of the University.
Why now you may ask? Because this is the season where our won/loss record will determine if Pat Narduzzi restructures his contract to be Pitt’s HC for the long run or not. His existing contract is low for a continually winning Power Five school and can easily be bought out by any other program who wants him badly enough.
If he wins big this season, and by that I mean 9 or 10 wins including that elusive bowl win, then the rest of the nation is going to really sit up and take notice of what he and Pitt have done over the last three years.
I’ve written many times that last season’s bowl loss really hurt us in a lot of ways – mainly because it kept us from being listed in 2016’s post-season Top 20. That would have been a real solid achievement for him on the national stage and made him more valuable to others than he actually might be to Pitt.
Instead the bold truth is that even as excited as Pitt fans are about the program and Narduzzi we are one win better that his predecessor’s best season – Paul Chryst’s 2013 year when he beat Notre Dame at home and won his bowl game.
Before you jump up and down in indignation please understand that I wholeheartedly believe Narduzzi’s 2016 season, with the wonderful wins over PSU and Clemson, was way better than 2013. It certainly was for us fans. But with only eight wins per year and no bowl game wins he hasn’t put all that much concrete distance between the program now and then.
But if he goes to nine or 10 wins with a bowl win that closes the door on any compositions to the recent past… and starts to open up the measuring stick to Dave Wannstedt and his 2008 and ’09 seasons with those nine and 10 wins (including that 10th win in a bowl game) respectively.
OK, what does all that mean? Well, if Narduzzi does what we hope he will and get to the higher level then the wolves will start baying at his door in a serious way. We don’t pay Narduzzi anywhere near what the winningest program pay their head coaches – far from it and while he may be getting more that any other Pitt HC has earned that means nothing.
College football is a business. Even the semi-romantic view I have of it allows me to know that for a fact. And if Narduzzi starts getting offers that double his Pitt salary (and incentives) we are going to have to decide whether to put up or shut up in a big way because it isn’t just the HC’s salary that will be raised – you can sure as hell know that all those staff coaches will be getting more money also.
That will force Pitts hand in a big way. Do we pony up a ton of dollars that we haven’t ever spent before on football staff to keep the guy and to possibly get to that “Next Level” that the Pitt administration throws out every so often… or do we stay the course, let Narduzzi go and start over again with a lower salaried HC who we hope will be able to keep the program win heavy in the W-L column.
Don’t be shocked at all if it is the latter as that has been Pitt’s modus operandi for almost 90 years going way back to the 1930s. Hell, recently we saw Pitt out-and-out fire it’s two most recent winningest head coaches in Walt Harris (not renewing a contract is firing the guy) and Dave Wannstedt because Pitt values other concerns over football wins. So the track record is sure there to see in the recent past.
So here are two very good and rather lengthy Saturday Evening Post articles about the way-back decisions Pitt had to make (or decided they had to make) about the football program and its place in the 360° of the University of Pittsburgh’s mission areas and its reason for existence.
When I read these it was all pretty familiar for me because these time periods and issues were kept alive in my childhood house hold due to the fact that my parents were students at Pitt in the late ’30s and early ’40s and continued on there as professors and administrators through the ’40s and beyond. I heard talk of these all the time so it was a treat to be able to read a more unbiased view of the issues.
Enjoy and then we’ll discuss all this in the comments over the weekend… One thing to note; the Saturday Evening post has a long history and in the late 1800’s to the 1960s was one of the best written and most influential magazines in the U.S.
The Saturday Evening Post is a bimonthly American magazine. It was published weekly under this title from 1897 until 1963, then biweekly until 1969. From the 1920s to the 1960s, it was one of the most widely circulated and influential magazines for the American middle class, with fiction, non-fiction, cartoons and features that reached millions of homes every week. The magazine declined in readership through the 1960s, and in 1969 The Saturday Evening Post folded for two years before being revived as a quarterly publication in 1971. It now appears six times a year.
Test Case at Pitt – a Saturday Evening Post article from October 25th, 1939 covering the decisions Pitt was faced with over the fact that Pitt (and many other schools) were engaging in “Pay for Play” and Bowman, the Pitt Chancellor was putting a stop to it. That issue and discussion has recent impacts now doesn’t it?
Especially interesting to me is the discussion and politics of the benefits and need for building Pitt Stadium over building the Cathedral of Learning back than. Especially in light of how so many Pitt fans are now calling for an on-campus stadium… and how the Cathedral of Learning is our iconic symbol of everything good Pitt stands for. This is how The Post describes it:
“BEHIND these men shadows fought. Two great structures dominate the Pitt campus. One is the Cathedral of Learning, a unique forty-two-story skyscraper university, the dream and achievement of Chancellor Bowman. The other is Pitt Stadium, the house that football built. When the fight at Pitt reached its climax round two years ago, in 1937, the Cathedral of Learning rested within the shadow of the stadium. When that knockdown and toss-out round ended last spring, the stadium was within the shadow of the cathedral.
That is exactly where the stadium belongs. Chancellor Bowman and his administration forces contend. They assert athletics, after all, constitute only a department of the university, and an accessory department at that. Once football threatened to muscle the academic program out of joint, the administration contends, there was nothing to do, except to accept the challenge and knead this muscular development back into its proper place.”
Purity Dies at Pitt – a later Post article following up on the “Test Case” articles written ten years earlier.
“IN the eager city of Pittsburgh, where some notable construction projects are under way, one interesting building job involves the football team of the University of Pittsburgh. This is the school which, after a quarter of a century of colossal football under Pop Warner and Jock Sutherland, Unexpectedly switched a dozen years ago to the most
drastic de-emphasis program since the University of Chicago began letting its squad wither on the vine.
Like Chicago, Pitt reached the point where it either had to give up the sport or start rebuilding. Pitt elected to rebuild. This became evident, to Anyone not previously aware of it, when the reviving Panthers flew out to Evanston this October
9nd smacked down Northwestern, last year’s Rose 6owl winner and a Big Ten contender this season.
This victory was somewhat misleading, as a 48-14 Pitt loss to Indiana made clear three Saturdays later. But the Northwestern game showed the trend. Pitt once again is apt to make things tough for almost any big-college team.”
We’ll talk about this as it pertains to the 2010’s version of Pitt football as I’d really like to get our reader’s thoughts on all of this.