Here is MarkPT’s recap of his road to Pitt fandom. It’s a great read and Mark wins the secret contest to be the first POVer to use “jagoff” in his story.
Like many POVers, I grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania. My dad was a minor and regional sports fan. As I recall he favored Pitt among college sports teams in football (and Duquesne in basketball) but if Pitt wasn’t playing PSU he would root for PSU against other teams. The three sports teams I recall hearing the most about in Belle Vernon in the early 70s were Pitt, PSU, and Notre Dame.
I can’t remember hearing much about WVU at that time of my youth. I’m guessing that being 10 years old when Johnny Majors and Tony Dorsett got Pitt football on the proverbial map had a lot to do with it, but I developed an affinity for Pitt Sports at an early age despite never having attended a game. I think I developed an aversion for Penn State around the same time.
My tolerance or dislike for other teams largely centers around the head coach of the team, and long before the taint of scandal hit PSU I developed a distaste for JoePa. He always struck me as a bit of a whiner, kind of like the equivalent of Jim Boeheim in college basketball. So at this point of my life (Junior High/High school) I liked Pitt but had only a casual interest.
For my first college experience I went to Alderson Broaddus (College then, University now) in rural West Virginia, about an hour south of Morgantown. It is a tiny school (my graduating class had 144 students) but I loved it and had a fantastic four years. The school at that time was so small that we didn’t have a football team.
Many of my friends adopted WVU as their major college team to root for due to its proximity but I remained true to Pitt. I will confess though that I don’t have the degree of disdain for WVU that I have for PSU. Probably because some of the greatest years of my life were spent in West by God Virginia.
I graduated from the Physician Assistant program at AB in 1984. Physician Assistants weren’t in the demand that they are today and my first job was in correctional medicine in a Medium/Maximum security prison in Hagerstown MD.
The job was very interesting but the administration was horrendous and I got out of there and moved back home and took a job in the Public Health sector in Greensburg in 1985. In this job it became clear that physlcal therapists were in short supply and I decided to return to school for PT. I applied to an Army program at Fort Sam Houston and to Pitt. I had to take the GRE for the Army program and if I had scored 10 points higher on it, I’d probably be retired from a military PT career by now.
The Army urged me to retake the GRE and reapply next year, but I got accepted by Pitt so decided I’d go there (a bird in the hand…). That wasn’t quite as simple though as it first seemed though, as Pitt wanted me to take two more prerequisite classes before starting the Pitt PT program in the summer of 1986. I didn’t think that would be a problem but I couldn’t find the classes offered anywhere as my acceptance came in February and the PT program was due to start in June.
I put in a call to the Dean of Education at my alma mater Alderson Broaddus (it’s a little easier to do that at a school of about 1000) and he said he would see what he could do. I hadn’t heard from him and the acceptance deadline at Pitt had come so I called Pitt and told them that I had to decline as I couldn’t get the prerequisite classes scheduled that they required. Three days later I got a call from Dean Digman at AB saying that he was able to set up independent studies for me for the classes that I needed! I called Pitt back and they had just had a student decline admission and I was given their spot.
After 6 more weeks back at AB, I finished there on a Friday and started the following Monday at the University of Pittsburgh!
Due to the prevalence of sports injuries, athletes are often drawn to a career in PT, and Pitt athletics was well represented in my class, which included Chuckie Scales from the football team, Joey David from the basketball team, and Tony Salesi, who was already an athletic trainer for Pitt Basketball. I attended Pitt during the Mike Gottfried/John Congemi era, which was a pretty good time for Pitt football. I was a commuter student so I didn’t go to games regularly at the time but most remember attending those ESPN weeknight games after classes with some of my PT classmates.
As an alum , my fandom for Pitt increased but still hadn’t reached the zeal I have today. Raising a family during that time took precedence so I watched the Panthers on TV regularly but maybe attended five games over the next 20 years.
I have some coworkers who had season tickets for Pitt FB and began to think about getting them someday. I mentioned earlier that I seem to like or dislike a team based on the personality of the HC, so it is ironic that when tickets next to a couple of friends/coworkers opened up, I decided to take them, suckered in by jag-off Todd Graham’s promise of “Speed, Speed, Speed”.
I know that a poor college game day experience is often cited at Pitt, but I immediately loved it and now look forward to games with the same zeal that I looked forward to Belle Vernon Kennywood Community Picnic days as a kid. (even more so now thanks to Fran’s POV tailgates!)
I’ve gotten to know some of the other season ticket holders sitting around me and they serve as a reminder of how it is a small world. The people sitting on my left live within walking distance of where I grew up, and the father of that group went to high school with my father. The friend on the other side of me played baseball at Pitt with our very own Upitt!
It’s funny how your athletic fandom can become imprinted on your kids. My younger son became a Pitt fan, graduating from Pitt in 2015 with a degree in Computer Engineering. Funny he is not as strong a Pitt fan as I am but seems to have a worse loathing for PSU (and WVU).
So that about sums up my Pitt story. They say confession is good for the soul, and huh…I do feel better! The POV blog and tailgates have greatly enhanced my Pitt athletic interest and I thank Reed and all of you for that. Hail to Pitt!