Why Pitt & Pitt Football Mean So Much to Me

Another great Pitt Bio submitted this time by Justin. What a great memory and a wonderful way with words. Plus he thinks the POV is the best around and for that I thank him…

I was born in Donora, PA, a Mon Valley steel mill town founded in the early 1900’s and populated by many European immigrants to America and Southern blacks who moved up to northern industrial centers, nearly all of whom worked in the steel mills.  Never numbering more than 13,000 residents, it still produced an amazing number of sports champions, the first generation of children of those hard-working steelworkers. The school’s colors were black and orange, the colors of the flames and smoke from the mills.  (Consider the current powerhouse Clairton HS that has the same school colors.)

Donora, now pretty much a very rusty rust belt town and much smaller now, still calls itself the Home of Champions.  Here are just some of them: Baseball Hall of Famers “Stan the Man” Musial and Ken “Junior” Griffey; Ken’s father Ken, Sr., a member of the Cincinnati Reds’ “Big Red Machine” ; Arnold “Pope” Galliffa, Army Football All-American quarterback and College Football Hall of Famer; “Deacon” Dan Towler, W & J Little All-American running back who played for the Los Angeles Rams and actually became a minister; and Lou “Bimbo” Cecconi, a Donora HS great, a State of Pennsylvania and a WPIAL Hall of Famer, and a Pitt QB and RB of note and also an assistant coach.

Except for the Griffeys, all these sports greats made their initial marks in the 1940’s when I was a child.  Buddy Griffey, Junior’s grandfather and Senior’s father, played with Stan the Man on the Donora baseball team in 1939.  As I grew up, I heard all about these greats, but Bimbo made the greatest impression on me, probably because of his unique nickname.  That was how Bimbo’s Pitt first became It to me.

As I grew up in the 1950’s Pitt’s football teams had some real success by winning tough intersection games as an Eastern independent.  Two major bowl games were achieved in the 1950’s, both against Georgia Tech, and both of them losses. Pitt had an African-American player, Bobby Grier, for the Sugar Bowl game, and controversy erupted when the segregationist Georgia governor called for both teams not to play each other.

Headlines made this controversy known nationwide. The game was eventually played, making it the first integrated major college football game played in the Deep South. Ironically, another problem came about when a controversial interference call in the game was made against Grier, setting Georgia Tech up on the one yard line for the game’s only score, 7-0.  Pitt lost to Tech in the Gator Bowl the next year, 21-14. I never forgot those Tech games, and to this day, I hate it when Pitt can’t win the game against GT.

About this time, my beautiful first cousin Frances was on the cheering squad at Pitt.  She fell in love with Charles “Corky” Cost, a star running back on the Pitt bowl teams in the 50’s.  I remember seeing Fran’s picture in a Sunday Pittsburgh newspaper in her cheering outfit. They eventually married and still are together.  He and his family’s construction business grew to great proportions, and Pitt received the family’s largesse through buildings on campus and donations.  Although I was not close to the Cost family, I was still proud that through him and Fran Pitt benefited and was not forgotten by them.

About that same time, I remember watching on TV a Pitt game in 1958 against Notre Dame.  Pitt won that game at Pitt Stadium, 29-26. I remember hearing announcers Lindsey Nelson and Red Grange tell a story about Pitt’s QB Bill Kaliden, who scored the winning TD and was a pre-med student.  He had missed some football practices because he had lab classes at the same time as practice, but he still played in the game. To me that made Pitt’s win all the sweeter. To be fair, I think ND had some down years back then, before Ara Parseghian got there as the coach.

A Pitt All-American tackle visited my high school (Johnstown Central Catholic) in Johnstown, PA, where I later grew up.  He attended our athletic banquet and spoke. His name was Eldred Kraemer and he really impressed me.

Pitt also had three running backs in the late 1950’s that were pretty special and made headlines because of the spelling of their last names.  They were called “The Three C’s” in headlines because of their exploits for Pitt. They were Bob Clemens (North Braddock), Fred Cox (from Mon City, near Donora), and Jim Cunningham (Connellsville).  All three went on to play pro football: Clemens to the Colts, Cox to the Vikings, and Cunningham to the Redskins. Pitt maybe did not win a lot of championships back then, but it was then, as it still is now, a great place to take off from for pro football.

Cox was a great placekicker too, making his mark long-term as a record-setting FG kicker for the Vikings.  By the way, Fred invented the Nerf football while he was a Viking.

When I started at Pitt in 1959, the football team had stagnated a bit.  Then 1963 happened. The seniors on that team were special. As freshmen, the rumor was that they outplayed the varsity players in daily scrimmages but were ineligible to play because of rules at the time.  They got better and had that great 9-1 season that suffered a loss to the great Roger Staubach Navy team and the tragedy of the assassination of President Kennedy. The assassination caused the postponement for a week of a game that Pitt still had to play.

The major bowl committees chose not to select Pitt in case it lost its rescheduled last game against Penn State (which Pitt did win). At the time, Pitt was regarded as the best college football team not to have played in a bowl game, although it was somewhat reminiscent of the great Pitt 1938 team that turned down a Rose Bowl offer.

This was not the Same Old Pitt stuff that became a routine gripe by Pitt fans of a later generation; this was a tragic historical event interrupting a Pitt season, not a blunder by Pitt.

I played on an intermural basketball Team, Apartment C, that played a fraternity team for the Pitt intermural championship on the basketball court under Pitt Stadium.   The referee was a Pitt basketball player who never called a foul on our opponents, just against us. There were football players on that fraternity team, and though we lost by a few points, we held our own against those hulks.  I was 6-1 and 180 pounds back then and thought I could hold my own. I still remember doing a jump ball against a Pitt lineman who eventually played for the Giants. On the jump up to tip the ball he laid a forearm on my chin and sent me sprawling.  No foul was called, of course. I scored 16 points with my girlfriend watching, and that lineman did shake my hand afterwards.

I loved my classes at Pitt.  I was a liberal arts English writing major on my way to be a famous writer, if I could be one, or an English teacher, if I couldn’t.  Pitt had a famous writing program back then, and I wanted to excel that way if I could. I had a scholarship and eventually a fellowship to grad school.  I had magna cum laude grades and a smart beautiful girl friend from Cincinnati.

She called me her Johnny Shaunessy, the hero of the novel Raintree County who was a lover of literature and all that was good and upright.  We dated right through the Cuban missile crisis when all kinds of hell could have befallen the U.S. and the world.   But it didn’t happen, and the girl moved on, and so did I. She later had a novel published, and I achieved a bit of anonymous notoriety by appearing as a character in the story as her first of many lovers that she wrote about.  Whatever.

I faithfully attended Pitt football games, during and after my years on the Pitt campus.  I remember a game against Syracuse when during the same game the sun shone, the rains came, and snow followed with thunder as an occasional accompaniment.  First time I ever experienced thunder snow. Hard fought game, many guys carried off the field.

I remember one game against Army watching Pitt’s middle linebacker Marty Schottenheimer incredibly pumped up and running all over the field making tackles.  Tom Blanda, the Army kicker, tried a field goal and it hit an upright for a miss. I still remember how the goal posts shook from the impact. I was in the end zone section to see it up close.

I still remember how cool I thought those Pitt players were off the field.  Always terrifically well dressed, Paul Martha especially looked the part of an All- American, nice build but not hulking size, handsome, and impeccably dressed.  A working class kid like me could only dream of cutting an appearance like that, but whenever I could I bought stuff in the University Shop to step up my appearance game.  I probably shouldn’t admit it, but I naively wanted to emulate those guys, at least in the way they looked.

But Pitt players weren’t always well-groomed.  I was there when curfew hour rang and we all said good night and smooched our girl friends for the last time.  This was in the Schenley Towers, the old ones before the new ones were completely built. I remember seeing two Pitt players being carried in by other players, both in suits but out cold and drunk.  I won’t identify them, but one of them much later went to jail for non-football reasons.

I saw the 36-35 Pitt comeback win over powerful WVU in 1970 and thought Coach DePasqua would make better things happen.  He didn’t. I saw routs by PSU and ND and Oklahoma over Pitt at the Stadium. Rumor had it that Joe Pa and Ara agreed to let the clock run in the second half to ease Pitt’s suffering, but I don’t think such a mercy rule would have been allowed back then.  Coach Dave Hart had miserable seasons at Pitt, but he had great WPIAL teams at Johnstown High and great charisma that unfortunately didn’t transfer from HS to big time college.

While at my teaching and administrative job in the Euclid suburb of Cleveland, I met the occasional Pitt assistant coach who would stop by to check on our players.  One was John Harbaugh who was a tight ends coach and quite charming. Another was Paul Rhodes the defensive coordinator who also was a charming guy. One time I was invited into Mike Gottfried’s team locker room after a Pitt game and was struck by this unusual fact: all the white kids had lockers together on one side of the room and all the black kids on the other side.  This was similar to the way I saw kids sit together in the cafeteria in the interracial high school where I worked. Nobody forced such a grouping. It just seemed to happen.

By the way, for a historical fact, Jimmy Joe Robinson was Pitt’s first black player on the 1945 team.  He was a kick return specialist who scored a number of long touchdown returns and allegedly was the first black player to score a touchdown against Notre Dame on a kickoff.  Herb Douglas, the Pitt Olympian, played on the 1948 team and allegedly was the second black player to score a touchdown against Notre Dame, on a kick return. Why didn’t Pitt have black players earlier?  They had black track performers in the 1930’s, including John Woodruff, the Olympic champion.

Paul Hackett called me at school to inquire about the possibility of recruiting Robert Smith, a 5-star RB, who was destined to go to Ohio State.  I told Hackett that Pitt was not going to be It for Robert.

I met Johnny Majors at a sports banquet in Cleveland, and he was very gracious to me as a Pitt guy and shook my hand.

I met and had my picture taken with a bunch of big time head coaches who came to my school to recruit some of our 4 and 5-star players.  They included John Cooper (OSU), Dennis Erickson (Miami), a USC head coach whose name I forget, Bo Schembechler (Michigan), and Joe Paterno (PSU).    No Pitt head coach ever showed up at my school in my 34 years there. Pitt did get one of our kids, a big lineman, who was there to block for Tony D.

Pitt paraphernalia showed up among my school’s athletic boosters.  Our colors were navy blue and gold, like Pitt’s traditional colors.  And the panther was the school’s mascot. I asked the boosters if they would be interested in buying a nice blue and gold panther tie from the Pitt Store.  The demand was there so I ordered a bunch and we sold out each year. The only trouble was that my school’s mascot was a black panther and Pitt’s is a golden one.  That didn’t matter to my school’s boosters since to them the colors were right and a panther was a panther.

Pitt’s football history turned out to be very important to me since I love the education that Pitt provided to me, and Pitt football was a big part of that educational experience for me.  I even got married in the Heinz Chapel, to a beautiful Dormont girl who graduated from Penn State. We are still happily married 51 years later.

I usually relive Pitt experiences each year at the homecoming game, but in the past year I have developed some balance problems and a drop-foot problem, necessitating my use of a cane and some therapy.  Walking long distances, especially in the middle of a big jostling crowd, is just about too much for me anymore. Depth perception on stairs, from glaucoma, is also a problem. My mind is still good. Whatever.

I read POV last every morning.  I save the best for last. Tribune Review Sports is first, then Pitt Blather, then Pittsburgh Sports Now, then the POV.  Commenters on the POV seem to know each other well, sometimes ripping into each other like frat guys, kind of intimidating to me since it is hard sometimes to know whether it is all in fun or if feelings are being hurt.  This is so especially to an outsider like me. I came to the POV after the Blather just two years ago, by accident. I am still caught up in the content of Pitt football. Never bores me.

I hope that my references to African-American stuff does not rub readers the wrong way.  I was the editor of the Johnstown College student newspaper while I was there for two years before transferring to the main campus.  Civil rights issues, murders, intimidation ran wild down South. This was especially true with regard to the enrollment of black students in colleges and high schools.  I was moved by the civil rights movement and the courage shown by people, including white people like me, who tried to make things right. I never considered that stuff as politics.  I saw it as right or wrong. To this day, I still cannot watch those great Southern college athletic teams that are loaded with talented black players without noting the irony that 50 years ago their institutions would not even enroll one.  Winning is the great leveler, I guess.

I still miss the great hamburgers at Cicero’s on Forbes and the late meals after a grad class at Gustine’s, also on Forbes.  There was a wonderful small Italian restaurant in Bloomfield that we had to walk around back to get into, but I can’t remember the name.  My future wife and I loved that place. We also loved Weinstein’s in Squirrel Hill, but I heard it burned down. We would pass some old numbers guys upon entering it, and the hot turkey sandwich was to die for.  I loved the pizza on Potomac Avenue in Dormont, Dom Campiti’s, where as a good Catholic boy I would have a meatless Friday meal before meeting up with my Dormont sweetheart when I came in from Cleveland.

I wandered down memory lane in this piece, but as a retiree for the past 14 years I don’t get a chance to chat much anymore.  And when I do, I have to be careful not to repeat myself. It’s bad enough getting old (almost 78 now) without getting on people’s nerves.  I consulted a Pitt hard cover reference book that I own for many of the facts I have recounted; it is entitled Hail to Pitt, Editor Jim O’Brien, 1982.

My brother John, my sister Marian, and her husband Kevin all love Pitt and have gone to many Pitt  games with me. They are not graduates of Pitt, but like me they live and die with Pitt’s fortunes.  (Their children are Pitt graduates.) I could not be luckier to have them by me as surrogate alumni.   As you can probably tell, I will never get tired of singing the Pitt alma mater (the tune is of the German national anthem, by the way), nor will I ever tire of saying, Hail to Pitt.

Pitt 1963, B.A. English; Pitt 1965, M. A. Education

64 thoughts on “Why Pitt & Pitt Football Mean So Much to Me

  1. Justin, so beautifully written. The pen is mightier than the sword. I have to finish paper-work before my patients begin to roll in. Will comment later. Lot’s of great talking points in your post.

    Question: was the kicker named Blanda any relation to George ? Just curious.

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      1. Yes, Tom Blanda was definitely the younger brother of George Blanda, from Youngwood, PA. I just double-checked. He was a two-year starter at QB for Army, a placekicker, playing both positions like his older brother George. He was a 2nd team All-American at QB.

        He served two tours of duty in Viet Nam, earning commentions and medals for his brave service there. He did post grauate studies at Rensselear Poly Technical Institute in mathematics, a subject which he loved. He turned down a pro career with the Cardinals. Instead he chose to teach math at West Point after his active duty and at Incarnate Word College. He finished his teaching at Texas Military Institute, a prep school, where he passed away with a heart attack.over the excitement, according to his wife, of his math students earning 4’s and 5’s (very high scores) on their Advanced Placement (AP) tests.

        He loved to read math texts for enjoyment, much like WWII’s Gen.Omar Bradley, also from West Point much earlier, and even like Abraham Lincoln who liked to read geometry books to further his logic abilities.

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    1. Apples to Oranges.. NFL fans aren’t college fans and vice versa. NFL stadiums are treasured for luxury suites and wi fi. College venues are graded on tradition, tailgating and “college atmosphere.”

      As an NFL stadium, Heinz is perfectly fine. I’ve been to a game at AT&T Stadium in Dallas (Super Bowl XLV) and it’s amazing but I’d never want Pitt to play college games there– and not just because it seats 90k.

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    2. BUNKO !
      It is by far the worst stadium to actually watch a game I have ever been in. That includes Foxboro stadium that cost 6 million and was paid for by the Sullivan family.

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  2. Justin, what’s your last name? I grew up in Donora as well, my classmate (Donora 1963) Mickey Rosborough played for the Panthers…my first game was with the Boy Scouts, when I was 9, we sat in the end zone and watch Pitt clobber Nebraska 34-0.

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    1. Antonini is my last name. Verbich was my mother’s maiden name. We moved away to Uniontown in 1948 and then to Johnstown in 1949 where Dad found work with the Bethlehem Steel Co. and I spent most of my growing up years. We just missed the terrible killer smog of 1948 in Donora that killed a number of people outright, including Stan Musial’s father, and hastened the deaths of many more, especially older people. Resulting suits resulting in clean air acts of the 1970’s and therafter. If you watched the TV series “The Crown,” the Donora smog was talked about during the episode involving the terrible and worse London smog of the early 1950’s.

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      1. I was two when the smog hit…I survived. Left town when I was 18 , live in NJ, I go back once (or twice) a year to visit my parents graves, and occasional Pitt game and a Pens game.

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  3. Justin — excellent article. Thank you for sharing your PITT journey and memories. You have an interesting perspective – especially from your interaction with recruiters…

    And please don’t consider yourself an “outsider” on the POV. Ask Reed — no one who is a PITT fan is an outsider on the POV.

    You are a great PITT fan with a great knowledge of things PITT.

    Hail to Pitt!

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    1. This is a great article and, I think, shows the problem that has recruiting overall and especially locally. If the coaching staff truly believes this…

      For example, the coaches told Katic that they needed to be sure when it comes to offering interior offensive linemen; tackles can be moved to guard, but guards can’t be moved to tackle, and if they can’t play guard and they can’t snap, then they’re stuck eating a scholarship and not contributing.

      Then we have a real problem because other Pitt head coaches and other schools move guards and tackles and centers around all the time that is very limiting for Pitt if they think that way.

      It all boils down to the relationships that this coaching staff and head coach has with a local High School coaches and from everything I’ve heard it is not very good; it hasn’t been built upon over the last 4 years and there’s been a certain amount of, shall I say “don’t call us, well call you whenever we feel like it”, on the part of the Pitt staff when it comes to local high schools and local recruits.

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      1. We did just move Bookser from guard to tackle, but I see the point of the quote.

        The quote makes sense to me; the problem is taking longer than others to decide to offer.

        I do like local olinemen Zubovic and Kradel from last year’s class…

        One other note – it may be true but it stretches credibility that Pitt coaches would ignore or in any way disrespect local HS coaches. College coaches whole livelihood depends on getting players and how well they recruit. I understand that Pitt invites or permits local HS coaches to attend practices (no small concession for this regime). Why would you poison the local waters – I don’t get it.

        And if you ever talked with Coach Harley, he seems like quite the personable guy. And bright. Has given of his time to talk to me at Pitt events, even though I’m a old nobody who can’t help him now or down the road with any recruits.

        Would love to know the details and where the fault lies…

        Go Pitt!

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  4. Well Mr Justin that was an impressive read for sure and a little intimidating for a hack like me that was tossed from more than one of my classes in high school for being a naughty boy. Actually referring to myself as a hack is giving myself too much credit. Thank You for the great article.

    Jay, I don’t have any solid info regarding recruits this year but I do keep an eye in that direction. History also gives us all an indication that recruiting will pick up. About the “strong” recruiting. The next two weeks has quite a few highly regarded players coming to visit. The talent pool in WPA is so down this year I feel PITT is lucky to have a head coach that has already decided to broaden his search for players. By this I mean outside of the fenced in or walled in area Wanny talked about.

    Again, PITT is destined to recruit 3* players and there are enough of them to go around for everyone. The trick is in the recruiters eye. imo it really does come down to the player and not the rating he has been tagged with. Too many variables for me. I really do believe Narduzzi has brought in 3 solid recruiting classes so far with high end 3* players. It’s an opinion that we will have to let play out to see if I have any clue about what i’m talking about. Trust me, I’m never sure about much anymore…… . ike

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    1. ike.

      “Again, PITT is destined to recruit 3* players “.. with this coach, I agree with you.

      I’m very worried about the future of the program, vis a vis my vision of what the program should be.

      If people are happy with a consistent 6-7 wins a year, a depressingly empty, stagnant and misbranded stadium, and scheduling that is dictated as much by the Steelers and Pirates as it is the ACC, and platitudes about scholar athletes and graduation rates, as some people clearly are, then we are right on pace.

      However, if the goal is 8-9 wins per season, with perennially ranked teams playing in a Pitt-branded facility that’s 75% full and has any “college atmosphere”, SIGNIFICANT changes need to take place. And running out a roster full of 2-3 players and hoping they all blossom is NOT the recipe for being a contender. It just isn’t.

      Attached is a rivals article discussing recruiting and it’s effect and impact on a team’s success. Here’s what they had to say about us:

      PITTSBURGH
      Ranks last 5 years: 37, 31, 70, 45, 35
      Judge Farrell: ACHIEVED. Three winning seasons out of four and an overall record of 29-23 is solid enough for Pitt.

      THAT’S what our recruiting gets us. 29-23. Impressive.

      https://n.rivals.com/news/rivals-top-50-recruiting-teams-of-the-past-five-years

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    2. I agree with you (Ike) and add that PN seems to understand those 3* can be stars when they are seniors: thus the effort to redshirt so many freshmen.

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  5. Kudos to Borberly(Ming) for recognizing local talent and going after the young from Richland lineman.

    Mind-boggling why we wait to offer local talent that has offered by other D1 school . We are not to the point where we can be choosey. Narduzzi has done a mediocre if not poor job in recruiting top talent locally.

    The 3 most important words in advertising “WORD of MOUTH.” Maybe Narduzzi and staff are sending the wrong message…

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  6. Thanks Justin, that was very educational. I remember some of those games first live one included Paul Martha. My first job out of grad school was in Monessen. Eric Crabtree’s home town. Joe Montana was starring at Ringgold, which included Donora. Did you ever eat at the Green Grill, it was pretty old when I got there. I ate my first pierogie there.

    The Zinc mill in Donora was pretty nasty, when I was there in the late seventies, nothing would grow on the opposite side of the river, 20 years after the mill closed.

    The Mid Mon Valley was tough then, terrible today. Those river towns produced some Players back then, Donora, Monessen, Monongahela and Charleroi.

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    1. I have black and white pictures of me as a little boy, 3 or 4, holding my younger brother’s hand. We were dressed up as nice as Mom could get us. The pictures of us show that the hills in the background across the Monongahela River had no vegetation from the air pollution and subequent acid rain. We lived two blocks from the Zinc Works, the primary culprit for the smog. Grandpa Alexander worked there and died at age 55, his wife, my Bubba, at age 54. Work was so deadly there that the workers worked four hours on and four hours off recuperating.We could see the giant yellow pile of sulphur from our back porch. We were not rich. A graveyard was across the street (Meldon Ave.) and also had no vegetation. Strong rains were known to cause erosion and have coffins rear up out of their graves. I read about this but did not see any of it.

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  7. Nice job Justine. For what it’s worth I still think you have a good shot at writing that book you always wanted to write.

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  8. Also, from what I’m reading the hiring of Archie Collins might be one of the best hires Narduzzi has made at least that is from a recruiting stand point.

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  9. Well done Justin. I truly enjoyed your story. And i also was married at Heinz Chapel. I hope very can meet and talk someday. Was the Italian Restaurant in Bloomfield either Del’s or Minnatellos?
    Not sure that’s spelled correctly.

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  10. jrnpitt – re: Archie Collins…

    Maybe – how’s he done so far…

    https://pittsburgh.rivals.com/commitments/football/2019

    Well, Pitt seems to recruit in June and let’s hope we get in and fast… Penn State has eight – one-5* and four-4*s and their top two were pulled right out of the ACC territory we should be concentrating on and getting kids from.

    https://bwi.rivals.com/commitments/football/2019

    I wouldn’t care so much but PSU pulls two out of VA?

    BTW – of those 8 recruits PSU got – 6 had Pitt offers and they were the 5* and all four 4*s..

    https://pittsburgh.rivals.com/offers/football/2019

    It isn’t that PSU is kicking our ass again in recruiting but we are getting a miniscule percentage of head to head recruits against them.

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    1. what is Franklin selling?
      110k fans dressed in white at every game and electric atmosphere
      a great football conference
      a place where you’ll be treated like a star and hero worshipped
      a guaranteed chance to play in a big time bowl game

      What is Narduzzi selling?
      40k yellow seats masquerading as fans and morgue like atmosphere
      a conference best known for basketball
      a place where fans treat you as a regular Joe and would be the first to call the cops on you for underage drinking
      a guaranteed chance at either no bowl or one in a crappy location

      Penn State sells itself

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      1. But it’s all Coach Narduzzi’s fault for not being a good closer… Or not hiring elite recruiters for his staff…

        Go Pitt!

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  11. Justin – that is some fine writing my friend. Awesome story. You should write some more articles for Reed to share on the POV.

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  12. Really enjoyed your story Justin. Tough place to grow up. Do you remember Bernie Bercik who also grew up there at the same time? He’s a family friend.

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  13. Demetrious Cox and Monte Nicholson both from the Wpial recruited to Michigan State under Narduzzi as defensive coordinator. I believe both are still employed in the NFL? Can we see a correlation here?

    1.. Narduzzi has already been proven able to recruit players from this area when he didn’t even coach here.

    2.. Narduzzi recruited the better players from this area to East Lansing, BFE.

    3.. Narduzzi needed time and patience before he was able to establish his defense as one of the best in the country.

    4.. ??????? TBD

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  14. Went to Del’s a few times. It was actually on reality TV on a rescue show prior to closing.

    Fran – Minutello’s was in Shadyside and they had one in Scott Township. I bussed and washed dishes there in my formative years.

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  15. Justin,
    As you may know I grew up in Dormont like your wife did. Also, our family painting company owned the building Campiti’s Pizza was in on Potomac Ave. Our office was on one side of the front and Campiti’s was on the other. Our trucks, equipment, etc. were in the back. Don Campiti’s son, Don Jr. took it over in the late 70’s. He has since also retired but sold the pizza shop and I have been told from an excellent source (my sister) that the pizza still taste exactly like it did back in the 60’s.
    Great bio – thank you!

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    1. One time, I bought prepared but unbaked pizza from the place so that when I got back to Cleveland I could bake it fresh. Kept the memory alive of my future wife while I was away from her and had the great pizza too. I was a sentimental dude.

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  16. Tex.

    “Pitt doesn’t know what they want to be. That’s part of their identity problem.”

    Nope. That’s Pitt’s ENTIRE problem. Pitt isn’t Harvard.. and Harvard is FCS. Pitt isn’t PSU or WVU- the only game in town, in hillbilly central. Pitt isn’t South Carolina or Ole Miss- where the teams are always mediocre but the ON CAMPUS traditions keep generations of fans coming back. And we certainly aren’t Ohio State or Alabama where players are “students” in name only.

    I hope Pitt builds a concensus of what it wants to be and we can choose to support that vision or move on.

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    1. My suggestion is to follow the Wisconsin model. They have a great game day experience with an on campus stadium. They have great traditions and school spirit. They have a passionate base of fans. They are a school that understands the front porch, supports all of its programs, has scholar athletes, ranks high in the Directors Cup, is not a ‘cult’ school, and has a winning culture.

      Culture is the most important thing. Without the right culture that supports and nurtures sports, you wont have a consistent identity and one that is attractive to fans and recruits.

      Yes – Pitt is a city school and not a land grant. Play on that. Pitt will never represent the state but Pitt can piggy back off the powerful brand of Pittsburgh.

      The easiest thing for a new AD to change is the brand. I also think the atmosphere is receptive to a change in culture as long as integrity and the academic mission is not compromised.

      So this is what I suggest be done as relatively low hanging fruit (many of these ideas are currently being pursued or at least have been discussed so nothing groundbreaking…just common sense)

      First, change to a uniform color and Script across all sports programs

      Second, make all venues about the students (players see the student support, TV’s zero in on students)

      Third, make game days special with unique sights, sounds and smells you cant get by watching on TV

      Fourth, if needed, tarp the upper deck to remove the sight of yellow seats

      Fifth, bring back former players and have them attend at games…I mean not just football and basketball games. Shows that they are interested in supporting Pitt sports. Heck even get some local celebrities or famous non-sports alum that are recognized to come back

      Sixth, celebrate your successes. Make it a big deal. Winning is contagious.

      Seventh, make a new multi-purpose venue part of the Victory Heights initiative

      Eighth, have professors help market the smaller programs on campus. For example – ‘And dont forget there is a game tonight where our soccer team takes on nationally ranked Virginia. I’ll be at the game showing my support and I hear that there are some giveaways including class bonus points if you come up to me at the game.’ Students can be easily bribed. And they’ll soon realize how much fun these games truly are

      Ninth, create events where regular students can interact with student/athletes. These athletes need student support and by getting to know an athlete, it makes things more personal since you’re not just supporting a school…you’re supporting a friend.

      Tenth, ‘We are Pitt’ What do we want it to mean? What are we willing and not willing to do to win?

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  17. ..and oh yeah, Heinz Field SUCKS as a college venue. If you don’t think so, I’m betting your experiences are limited to very few college stadiums. Even Delaware Stadium- home of the Blue Hens– provides a better game day experience than Heinz Field. And it holds 22k.

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  18. +1 at Jay91. OCS is how you create lasting bonds. All the real schools get it. Again, out of all the bio’s, not one has indicated they bonded to Pitt Football because of the great times they had at Steeler Stadium. This is where Pitt misses the boat. We have swung and missed at several hundred thousand alumni because we didn’t tie them back to a place.

    Not one alumni has ever been identified that met up for a weekend on the campus to watch the panthers play in over 20 years. That is 2 generations of lost future revenue and giving. Only Pitt can be this stupid! They are alumni of pitt and pitt stadium and we are trying to fit them into a pitt and steeler stadium box. Stupid, just plain stupid.

    Temple, South Florida and the like realize you need on campus stadiums. It took them long to figure it out, but they finally got it right. The Pitt Administration thinks they are cute and smarter than all of the rest of college football. The joke has been on Pitt for 30 years now and we still can’t figure it out.

    Pitt will be looking in from the outside again as the next wave of re-alignment occurs.

    As far as Narduzzi recruiting, a poster suggested that Narduzzi landed a couple big time wpial kids several years ago. Mainly it’s because Pitt is easy to recruit against. For as much great history as we have, we never packaged it right, nor did we develop athletics as a revenue source and driver for a university.

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  19. Time will tell whether or not Archie Collins succeeds on the recruiting front. We have very little chance to out recruit PSU at this point in time. Our only advantage versus the PSU’s, OSUs, ND’s and Alabama’s of this world is the chance to play early at Pitt. However Narduzzi’s constant search for graduate and JC transfers certainly goes against that argument doesn’t it?

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  20. FWIW. as I remember, there was a handful of Italian restaurants in Bloomfield. I know Del’s (near the bridge} closed but I remember Lombardozzis, Alexanders, and the Pleasure Bar all had good food. Tessaro’s is known more for steaks and burgers but had decent Italian food. And the Italan market down the alley from the Pleasure bar was great..I remember the Italian festival where they shut down the main street every August for 3 or 4 days was fantastic

    It’s my understanding that Lawrenceville has relay sprouted many new restaurants on Butler St .. probably as an effect on Bloomfield

    wwb

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  21. wbb, Hot places are Lawrenceville, Garfield, and East Liberty( or greater Shadyside as some would have you believe). Who would have thunk it??
    I haven’t commented much lately. Lots of interesting articles. I’ve just been somewhat depressed over recruiting. PSU got another 4* from Va. They just continue to get pretty much who they want, or who they need. Anyone who isn’t worried about the state of our recruiting has their head in the sand. Well probably get a few this week and everyone will be saying” see, I told you to be patient “. That’s pretty laughable. There are MAJOR issues with our recruiting. Like I said, I’m a little down, took a couple years for me to see it, but there hasn’t been much progress. The local coaches and ADs I know are diplomatic, but not real keen on Pitt. Sad. How do we continually manage to screw this up? It’s like Groundhog Day, Guys who can recruit but not coach, guys who can coach but not recruit, guys who can’t recruit or coach! Wow, I’m really getting down. Too early on a Saturday for that!

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  22. Well written Justin, and brought back lots of memories. As a young boy growing up in Wilkinsburg it was Corky Cost and QB Darrell Lewis that were local WHS football heroes whose careers we all followed at Pitt
    and was the beginning of Panther fever. Paul Martha’s late younger brother Rich played for WHS against Monessen and Eric Crabtree in that game at Forbes Field and is in the WVU Hall of Fame (also played for the Dolphins). The first player to score a TD for a Paterno coached team at PSU was the WHS QB in that championship game (Jack White).

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  23. Does anyone remember the Encore Club in Shadyside? And Harold Betters (on the (trombone, I think). Great place for jazz and that type of music. I remembr when the great jazz xylophonist Lionel Hampton came to do a set with Harold. They played “My Funny Valentine” and “Fly Me to the Moon” when I was there with my girlfriend. Good times then, not such good memories later. Still can’t hear those songs today without changing the station on my Sirius.

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    1. Not sure if that was the same place people called “Den of the Golden Panther” or “Pitt Pot,” (Shady Avenue?), but saw Harold Betters join his brother who was playing there whatever the name. Seem to recall it being popular with Duquesne coeds.

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  24. No one should expect Narduzzi, or any coach to recruit as well as the big guys, but 2-3 4 stars on both sides of the ball should be achievable.

    While an OCS is certainly preferable, it is not a magic bullet that will fix Pitt Football. Pitt Football has pretty much been the same since Sherrill left, some good some bad, attendance fairly steady no matter the venue.

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    1. culture change is the magic bullet
      a multi purpose venue will help with the perception or the brand
      that matters for recruits and for the fan experience

      Pitt finally has a long run of stability in football
      i think it has competent coaches
      I think Pitt is finally serious about the front porch (because in 7 years Pitt football needs to be perceived as a top 40 program…see my links above).
      Pitt needs about six 4 star recruits each year to be competitve
      Recruits see the yellow seats, they see the students leave early, they see and hear the bland atmosphere.

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  25. I know we have talked about this before but PITT just hasn’t been to cultivate or sustain a rabid fan-base. PITT has more than one fracture over the years to try and recover from. The few things PITT hasn’t been able to do is create a defined direction, followed with a commitment and punctuated with continuity. All we have to do is look next door at the practice facilities to see the set examples.

    to be continued.

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  26. We really blew our opportunity to make headway on PSU when we dropped the ball when they were on probation. Haven’t recovered yet- we probably never will. Our fans aren’t cultists either….

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