Tex’s Take on Spirit

Here is a piece Tex sent in a while ago…

There are a few things that a North Texan hates in no particular order – Oklahoma, Carolina BBQ, compact foreign cars, Philly football fans (well everyone does), and the snow.  Well I’m snowbound for the next few days given the storm with time on my typing fingertips so I decided to ponder the following perplexing question:  Why does our rival Penn State have more school spirit than Pitt?

Spirit often manifests itself in sports so I base my opinion on anecdotal evidence.  Look around the retail stores in the Pittsburgh area.  You’ll often find more Penn State gear than Pitt merchandise.  And I personally see far more people wearing Penn State clothing than Pitt just in the DFW area.  Penn State sells out their football games while yellow seats outnumber Pitt fans at Heinz for most games.  Penn State’s fans travel to their bowl games whereas most Pitt fans would rather just watch on TV if they watch at all.  Turn on the TV for some Olympic sports on the Big Ten Network.  It always appeared to me that these minor sports were well attended by their fans and student body.  Compare that to how many people at Pitt attend soccer, wrestling or volleyball games.  And coincidentally those teams are Pitt’s most successful on the field among 19 scholarship programs.

So why do Penn State fans easily identify with Penn State athletics?  Why are they so passionate?  Why do they seem to have an endless supply of school spirit and pride whereas most Pitt students and alumni tune out of sports?  Is it more fun to hang out on Penn State’s front porch?

I do believe a love of sports starts at a young age.   I fell in love with Pitt as a young boy when Pitt football was crowned National Champions.   I then got to experience three straight 11-1 seasons under Jackie.  Winning probably has something to do with it.

In addition, having someone in the family who attended the school most likely helps create a bond and connection or affinity with the school.  Being able to hear their stories from college creates a curiosity and attraction.  And then also having the opportunity to attend games on campus with a family member or friend can help create some positive lasting experiences and fond personal memories of the school.

Now given Penn State’s success on the football field historically, it probably is easier for them to attract supporters.  I’m sure it also has broader appeal since it’s the state’s school and bears the Commonwealth’s name while a smaller school like Pitt is tied in name to the City.

But I also think Penn State does a better job reaching out to the community to find supporters and to engage with existing fans.   I believe they do a better job at cultivating and nurturing the relationship between the school and their fans.  They do it through their communications, messaging on social media, various clubs throughout the land, and consistency in branding.  How many color changes has Pitt gone through?  We’re now back to being known as Pitt and not Pittsburgh right?  And Pitt is script and not block letters?  I’m so confused.

When I attended Pitt back in the 90’s, there really wasn’t anything purposefully done by the university to strengthen the bond between students and the school.  Friends of mine who attended Penn State during this time were indoctrinated during orientation.  Some here might call it brain washing.  But Penn State does a very effective job using sports to help create an identity and to create a very special brand.  A brand until recently (Sandusky cover-up) was one of the most respected and valued across the nation. 

So I’ve always secretly admired the fire and zealous nature of Penn State fans.  I became disappointed that Pitt students and fans fell short and sports was just an afterthought to most.  How could Pitt create that same level of energy without the arrogance and self-righteousness sometimes associated with those Nitter…I mean Penn State fans?

During my time on campus, I attended football and basketball games.  I always followed those sports as a kid.  It was easy to attend…just a short walk up the hill.  That was when football games were actually played on campus.  I can’t imagine taking a bus to an off campus football game although Pitt basketball did play several marquee games at the Civic Arena and the bus ride wasn’t too bad.  I unfortunately seldom attended other sports.  Unless I knew a player on the volleyball or wrestling team, you couldn’t get me to go watch an Olympic sport and root on Pitt.  I don’t even recall much excitement leading up to big football or basketball games being played on campus.  I guess when a national media crew covered the game, there was more energy on campus but most students didn’t seem much to care.

For me though, Fitzgerald was more fun to watch a game.  Maybe it was because Pitt actually had a good basketball team in my day?  Maybe it was because Fitzgerald was small, loud and always packed?  I just always felt more energy and school spirit in that environment.  Maybe spirit has something to do with the venue?

Leaping forward 30 years, Pitt still has the same spirit problem.  My evidence – a very small percentage of alumni gift to athletics (smallest gifting rate in the ACC based on number of living alumni) and attendance based on butts in the seats (this Covid season doesn’t count but would things have been any different?).

Yes, it’s a city school with far more entertainment options than schools in small towns like State College where cow tipping is more popular than Penn State basketball.  Yes, Pitt has done a poor job at winning recently in the major sports where football is mediocre and basketball is either bad to embarrassingly bad depending on whether you drink Kool-Aid or vinegar.  And yes, you might have a larger percentage of students who commute at Pitt given its suburbs.

Then the question becomes, what if anything can Pitt do about it?  Intuitively, a greater level of school spirit should lead to increased revenues for the university through higher ticket sales, a larger percentage of fans donating money to athletics, increased merchandise sales and a more valuable brand and enhanced reputation.  A higher degree of school pride could also lead to higher student applications, a better quality applicant and higher student graduation rates.

I have several ideas that I believe can help with increasing school spirit among the student body.  In addition, I’ve got some ideas in mind for alumni and the casual fan.  However, I’d love to hear your ideas first.  And no I’m not being paid as a research consultant for Pitt, but if some football tickets for the Clemson game appeared in my mailbox one day, I’ll attribute that to a post office mistake or divine intervention.

67 thoughts on “Tex’s Take on Spirit

  1. Thanks Tex. I truly think that with so many other things for young people to do in PGH the University’s student are no longer Pitt centric but just got to Pitt while living in Pittsburgh (and suburbs).

    Pittsburgh is now being recognized as one of the best places to live in the US – it truly is an almost completely different city than when I grew up there back in the ’60s & ’70s. Now you can find something interesting to do almost any day of the week there (non-Covid years that is).

    Penn State is a self contained small town in it’s self and you have to travel pretty far off campus to do anything worthwhile culturally – so PSU student are limited to being PSU students vice Pitt kids being Pittsburghers.

    Add in the other major sports that draw the non-alumni sports fans interest away from Pitt and that is a recipe for low ‘school spirit’. Hell, for a PSU student to see any other major sports they have to travel to Philly or PGH to do so.. and that would mean reading a map which is intellectually above their capacity of thought.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Winning. Plain and simple. Pitt has had a love-hate relationship with football. Disinterest in football haunts the program through the 1940s, 60s, 90s, and even now fans are offered enhanced mediocrity, nothing more. Somehow, after building momentum under Ralph Willard followed by the stellar success of Howland and Dixon, the university managed to rat-trap its most successful program in the 21st century. Sure, being a city school makes a difference, and being a mid-sized university reduces the alumni pool, but Pitt is done-in by its inflated sense of self importance and protects itself from criticism by refusing to release documentation.

    Penn State has many advantages due to its name-plate and sprawling campus. It feeds alumni to states all over the country. Even though it hasn’t won a national title since 1986 (and was cheated out of one in 1994) the Nitters have appeared in numerous New Year’s Day bowls and the Rose Bowl.

    As the old school maxim goes. “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.” On the wanting to win scale, and doing what it takes to win consistently, Pitt falls way behind Penn State.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. One huge difference is that when you graduate from Penn State, there is a job interview and opening for you to get at job. PSU Alums take care of their own and have a system to get their grads employed with fellow Alums. Of course once you get your first job, a season ticket has to be your initial purchase. That’s how they get 101,000 to football games.

      At Pitt, you graduate and ….you are on your own! Don’t let the door hit you ….on the way out!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tex, I also attribute some of the lack of student support for Pitt athletics to the fact that historically Pitt was known as a working class commuter school. This has contributed to a situation where many students worked while taking classes part time or in the evenings, and their focus was more on making a living and providing for the family. They missed out on the on campus excitement and comradery that sports provides. Students on rural campuses are more isolated away from home where support comes more from fellow students and the shared college experience.

    I know there are other urban football colleges, but few of them really pack 50,000 or more routinely into a football stadium. Urban schools traditionally do better with basketball where the arenas are smaller and students will stay after classes. A large urban college with a tradition that spans decades and has graduates and fans from around the country could possibly buck this trend for football, but once it slips away it is hard to get back.

    Unfortunately, Pitt must spend more money to turn things around, which means embarking on a significant football fund raising campaign to approach all of the doctors, scientists and engineers that Pitt graduates and employs. This money is needed for publicity and building the brand; there is already sufficient money for coaches and recruiting. It is not about competing with other entertainment events in the city, since Pitt needs to have people traveling in from outside the area to attend football games (and stay in local hotels). And they need to appeal to the local working class like the old days where the blue collar workers followed Pitt sports and came to the games.

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  4. Tex, great write-up provoking many thoughts. I wanted to attend Penn State when I was a young guy. I identified more with a “rural” school as I think many in Pa do. I grew up in a town of 1500 people and we didn’t go into the big city and when I did, it was a bit intimidating and remained so even during my first couple of years at PITT. Penn State always had good football teams with great player and the team was usually underrated in the national rankings which would piss people even more and folks responded by rooting harder becoming fans. Heck, I loved their all white suits on my black and white TV. As a kid playing in the backyard getting dirty or even better yet muddy, was a badge of honor and the tough brand of Nittany Lion football and the heroes who played and got those white unis dirty while winning were looked up to by young BigB.

    We used to go trout fishing in Spring Crick every year and drive right past Beaver Stadium which only held 35,000 fans back in the day when Rip Engle coached and in Paternos’s early years (Maybe PITT should hire a Nit marketing director for help as PSU wasn’t a big time RAH RAH school back then) PITT played in a much bigger facility but spent most of the time losing, down-right many seasons were embarrassing, PITT also had 4 major FB uniform changes from Micheloson to Dave Hart to Carl Depasquale then finally struck gold with Johnny Majors and Jackie S creating a brand and winning only to unbelievably muck it up.

    My junior year of high school I attended a FB camp in East Hickory Pa. The camp was held be PSU staff including the infamous,,you guessed it,.. Jerry Sandusky… Joe couldn’t be there as he was coaching in the college all-star game. I would have matriculated to State College but with good grades, class ranking and while playing 3 sports I was only accepted to a branch campus. I was insulted and turned toward PITT which turns me to this small detail the University of PITTSBURGH has 4 branch campuses while the Sate University has 19 branch campuses, 5 of which are college campuses and are located through-out the state while PITT’s are limited a smaller geographical foot-print. They have way more fans and with those numbers the can breed even bigger numbers.

    What can PITT do????????
    1. Get serious about building athletic component. Bring in someone with a history of success in bringing about change. The fan atmosphere certainly changes at Beaver Stadium..they have rabid fans despite have mediocre teams since joining the Big10. PITT needs to break out of this hold pattern of mediocrity…a least every once in a while get ranked.

    I will not even mention OCS as I will never live to see it. I AM OK being in RED 5A with the faithful
    Have a brand a stick to it…maybe they learned that lesson but I am not holding my breath.
    4.. Need coaches and adm. who can relate and more importantly contect to the fans…take a play out of Dan Rooney’s and the Steeler play-book. Johnny and Jackie could work the crowd. That is totally missing. Jimminy Crickets!!!…UNLOCK THE GATES..welcome us as fand not just potential donors.
    It’s time to end this “Systemic rascism/social injustice mantra. PITT(amongst others) is not solving anything by promoting it, only alienating people who disagree with the messaging. My interest is waning. I loved sports for a reason and having someone’s, in this case my beloved university shove it at me is wrong,,,not being political but speaking from my heart. PITT needs to hang onto the faithful not lose more,,,think about it Patrick and the BoT
    H2P

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  5. Tex, outstanding topic and one that gets raised regularly but almost never in isolation like you did above. My wife was a Pitt commuter student, as both an undergrad and a grad student, and my father was a Pitt commuter undergrad.

    I have season tickets with a couple of Pitt alumni who were both commuter students and never once during their 4 years of college did they attend a football game due to jobs and family commitments from living at home. I appreciate these are anecdotal but I suspect that I’m not the only Pitt fan on the blog who knows more Pitt alumni that were commuters (living outside of Oakland) than on campus students.

    I now have a terrible thing to admit, my son is a PSU alumni. I know, and it was a very tough thing to swallow, however I took some solace in the fact that he was granted a full tuition scholarship so at least none of my money went to the cow tippers. However, the point is, he graduated with 10 very close friends and not a single one of them ever lived more than 1/2 mile from the campus.

    Sadly, geography matters.

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  6. First, thank you for taking the time to write about a perpetual problem that has haunted Pitt sports, fans, and even the administration.

    My thoughts regarding your observations is that it is true that school or sport spirit for Pitt has been irrelevant for most students and alumni. There are a lot of factors which play into this situation:

    Pitt traditionally was a “commuter” university in that we had far more working students who lived within the city or the suburbs who would attend classes, then go to work only to study later. It is difficult to be absorbed into campus life when you a required to have three jobs at any time.
    Pitt was a private university until the late 1960’s so those that got into Pitt were certainly not attending for parties, fraternities, and wild times on campus. The academics required to get into Pitt far surpassed those of PSU. Add on top of that the Litchfield effort to hire huge number of faculty with the best prestige they could purchase in order to duplicate if not join the Ivy League. Youngsters who came to Pitt after 1975 have little knowledge of these efforts. Yes, Litchfield nearly bankrupted Pitt which led to the State Related deal with the Commonwealth.
    Pitt was in a unique marketing situation in Pittsburgh with Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon) best known for its engineering and acting schools and downgraded athletics programs. Pitt had to contend with Duquesne University with its basketball history and ancient heyday of football, but really losing competitiveness with Pitt. Then there were the smaller universities and colleges in and around the Pittsburgh area. Pitt was the only multi-program academic power for the area.
    People forget or don’t know that most of the Pitt-PSU games were played in Pittsburgh because PSU had little facilities for even their successful football program. Their stadium was 35,0000 versus Pitt Stadium with nearly 60,000 seats. It made sense for PSU to get the attention of a large city like Pittsburgh in a bigger venue. So, there was a resentment by PSU folks that it had to bend to Pitt’s size of facilities.
    Pitt struggled with the rising tensions of the day with the Civil Rights Movement; Anti-War Movement; and other socially conscious events which were virtually unknown at Penn State and central PA. So, there was a considerable resentment by a lot of socially aware Pitt students about the monies for athletics and that helped to sour some of the alumni not helping school spirit.
    Pitt was prideful of the dynamics of the Majors-Sherrill era but even that was caught into conflict that the Golden Panthers and John Konomikes couldn’t rectify. Pitt faculty was fearful of being sidelined for a sports image rather than what they were hired to be which was strong academics. That fight continued as it had from the Sutherland days through to the past two administrations of the university. No love was lost between academia and athletics. Each dollar spent was contested. Academia won the battle and ended the Sherrill era never to return until Pitt hired Walt Harris (considered a poor to mediocre hiring) and leading up to the multi-million dollar contracts in the 21st Century.
    Western Pa and even West Virginia loves the Steelers, Penguins, and occasionally the Pirates. So, how do you take a major population area that was the #7 to #10 sized market in the US back in the 1950-1960’s and lose half the population in the 1980’s to be college sports fanatics? You don’t. What the locals want is “WINNERS.” As much as it kills us Pitt Fans, PSU has been the more dominant winner for more than fifty years in football, soccer, wrestling, etc. Those nice sports that featured a lot of Eastern European and Southern European immigrants and their children. Pittsburgh has been in a tough position competitively.
    The damn Trimester System destroyed most of the “class of” attitude at Pitt. I know that I hated it beyond words even through I completed my degree in under four full years. There was no such thing as entering in the fall as the “Class of 19#*” and going through four years together. It was each man or woman for themselves, so where the hell was spirit? It was nowhere.
    PSU never had to contend with Pitt’s problems. They had all of rural Pennsylvania, NY, and Maryland plus New Jersey in their pocket. Parents could send Johnny or Jane (no Shemeka’s or DJuans) to beautiful Mount Nittany to celebrate the rites of colleges, fraternities, and comraderie without worrying about civil unrest, minorities (they were on the sports teams), urban problems, or distractions from studies, parties, and having fun.
    PSU hit the Triple Play Perfecta when it launched branch campuses all across the state. No wonder McKeesport area kids pick PSU or the B10. No wonder that Erie kids chose among PSU and the B10 with the exception of Pitt alumni in Erie helping Pitt. Pitt never recognized fully how they could have done the same expansive branch campuses but stayed limited in number.

    Well, I’m tired now and ready for my Geritol, EKG, and usual visit to whichever doctor today. Have fun and stay safe.

    The Old LegalBeagle.

    Liked by 13 people

  7. I posted a comment about a month ago touching on this. I won’t go into as much detail this time. I cited my father as an example. He was born in 1943. So around 1950 (7 years old) his passions were taking hold- sports being one of those. From 1950 to 1969 the following generalities can be said… Pitt football mostly stunk, save for 1 great season. The Steelers were mostly awful. The Pirates mostly stunk, were average at times, and had a couple decent seasons with one that was legendary. The penguins were born late in that time period and stunk. Penn State football was mostly good to very good by the late 60’s (even pains me to say they got ripped off by Nixon and should have been NC.) In addition, Penn State usually won their bowl games. They were something people from this area could take pride in- sportswise.

    My dad rooted for Pitt to win. Penn State did and he became a fan. He was sick of hearing about the Texas, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, etc. teams getting all the love. So Penn State represented some “take that” all you blue bloods. We all know how the 70’s were for the Pittsburgh area, and PSU kept winning- including bowl games. Many of my friends are fans of PSU because their families were similar to my dad. It was passed down to them and was easy for them to continue to root on as PSU kept their winning ways. Factor in that Philly can also claim PSU as their local team and that builds up a good following.

    My freshman year I lived in Lothrop Hall (1987.) Many of my “hallmates” were from Philly. All were PSU fans. In fact, the Pitt-PSU game that year was the easiest game to get extra tickets for. My hallmates had family coming in for the game who got regular seats and they went to sit with them- and rooted openly (wearing all the gear) for PSU. I doubt- despite a Pitt degree- that any of them have changed their rooting interest. And I doubt any of them (mostly engineers) give a rat’s turd about Pitt – and most certainly aren’t donating any of their income to dear old alma mater.

    My post is just one of the many factors that add to the answers posted by Tex’s musings.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Please note that I apologize for the format when my numbered listing disappeared in posting, thus the appearance of run on paragraphs. Mea Culpa.

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  8. Thank y’all for commenting. I just got my power, heat and internet back after 30 hours. Don’t know how long it will stay on. Power grid real stressed. Rolling blackouts. And more snow tonight with the cold lasting until weekend. City is pretty much shut down except for the essentials. It’s like a covid lockdown but with snow.

    I’ll share some thoughts on how I think school spirit can be improved. My ideas are all practical. It’s just whether Pitt has the will to try. Not all will succeed but half the battle is the effort. Execution is another matter.

    But some of the major issues I think are a lack of a sustained winning tradition in football. The lack of a intimate venue on campus. The options a city school offers for entertainment. And the lack of a cohesive living quarter for students in Oakland.

    This free time has allowed me to think of some other things as well which I’ll be submitting to Reed.

    One evaluates each of Pitts 19 programs regarding their ACC fit. I’ll provide a brief commentary on each but I’ll be looking at things such as competitiveness, facilities, recruiting, weather, popularity and cost. Covid has forced many schools to cut programs. Pitt isn’t vaccinated from these economics.

    The second analyzes pitt football recruiting from this last class compared to some other P5 schools from other conferences based on geography. My 500 mile wall. I have a hypothesis but have no idea what the data will say. It’s a fun little exercise.

    The third delves into what makes a good rivalry, why rivalries are important and what if any new rivals exist for both football and basketball.

    I was planning to hibernate into Texas independence day but this snow drove me out.

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    1. Sympathy on your heat and power situation. My wife and I endured 10 days without either and eighteen inches of snow and ice on the ground in Connecticut. Stay safe and consider a propane generator.

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    2. I went 58 hours without power and it came back on at 11 am here in Austin. Fingers crossed for the two of us it stays on for a while.

      Austin mayor Adler and Governor Abbott are now playing the blame game, which is no shock to anyone.

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  9. Tex, thanks very much for providing us with something to chew on during the bleak weather. And well written – good job.

    The responses above are equally good. Great in fact.

    The only thing I could add is that Penn State is located in an islated area in a “Borough” called State College.
    The entire raison d’etre of the town is to support and feed off of the university. What else is there to do up there on a fall Saturday?

    Just one guys opinion, but the football program’s SUSTAINED success over decades has created nationwide brand awareness for the school. When people think of Penn State, they think about football. Success like that creates team spirit and it passes over generations.

    Pitt will have to overcome a lot of challenges if it is to achieve sustained success in the high profile sports. Much more to overcome than the elite programs whose flywheels are already spinning. I hope Im alive and still a season ticket holder if it ever happens.

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  10. as a non-Pitt alum, I’m not sure I am able to answer Tex’s inquiry as to what can be done to get the Pitt alums more involved ….. but I will take a stab as to why you see more PSU merchandise being worn, why PSU gets more athletic donations, and why PSU has the bigger brand

    1) PSU has exponentially a much larger alum base than Pitt

    2) Pitt has a larger percentage of pre-med, engineering and scientific students than PSU, as well as most public and semi-private schools. These people care less about football and other sports.

    3) Pitt’s alums are exponentially smaller than PSU’s.

    4) In central PA, everything is PSU. In Western PA, not so much for Pitt

    5) Comparing a larger school like PSU (81k undergraduates / 41K on campus) to a smaller school like Pitt (19.200 total undergrads including branches) is a futile exercise.

    Pitt’s focus should be on making Pitt better — forget about the dairy school and its studies on cow burps

    Liked by 4 people

  11. I’m originally from Pittsburgh. After spending my undergraduate and graduate degree years in a school in the cornfields of Ohio, I felt it was time to return home to earn a second graduate degree. This was the middle 70’s and Pittsburgh sports were coming alive. I liked Pitt because of Pittsburgh. I wanted a city experience and that was Pitt. I didn’t see Pitt as having a campus, Pitt blended into Oakland and Oakland into the rest of the city. In my years at Pitt, I delighted in the success of Pittsburgh’s sporting teams and to my great surprise Pitt football too. Based on contacts I made through Pitt, I got my first real job at a Fortune 500 company in Pittsburgh, real pay, real benefits. I never completed my second graduate degree, instead, I started a career, thanks to Pitt. My point is, Pitt is not just Pitt, for me, it’s part of Pittsburgh. I didn’t have a campus experience at Pitt, I had a Pittsburgh experience in which I will be forever indebted to Pitt. Pitt isn’t Penn State, but I’m glad it isn’t. I already had the campus experience in the cornfield of Ohio. H2P.

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  12. Good statement Tex. Pitt never seemed to cultivate its regional campuses. Before UPJ got a land donation, UPJ was in a small old outdated elementary school. The students (like me) had to go to Pittsburgh for their last two years. Thankfully Pitt let UPJ start to offer 4 year degrees as my brother got his there. Rumors had it that Pitt did not want UPJ to blossom into a large University even though it sits on over 600 acres. PSU always upgraded and expanded its regional campuses resulting in hundreds more students. Pitt expansion of UPJ would certainly help the depressed Johnstown area.

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  13. Tex, good stuff on a cold winter day. This is a topic I have opined about going back to Pitt Blather Days with Emel and the gang.

    From day one on the Pitt campus I was appalled by the lack of school spirit. Having gone to a huge suburban High School in the Pittsburgh suburbs I was used to a strong school spirit and identity Particularly with the relationship to athletics.

    I think you and the other comments have touched on most of the issues negatively affecting Pitt vs. PSU and most other large Universities.

    The issues I think make the most sense are a more corporate culture (I always felt like a number at Pitt still remember my ID 165265N) with no intent to create a rah rah college atmosphere. Remember those ridiculous lines to register or at the bookstore. Very little in terms of mixers, like college dances, clubs etc. Fraternities and Sororities were pretty much off campus and weren’t really supported by administration.

    At least when I got there sports were an afterthought. As was mentioned many commuted and freshman who lived nearby went home on weekends. There was a decent bar scene but it was probably 50/50 students to community. At that time the Student Union was not really much of an attraction so there was no where to “hang out” Most studied in their rooms or Hillman Library where there was some fraternization going on. There were many great house parties, but they had nothing to do with school spirit. Does anyone remember the rule not to make eye contact on the streets of Oakland. Absolutely very few attended any of the lesser sports.

    By comparison PSU and most other area schools had much more school spirit, in great part due to their isolation and limited alternative forms of entertainment, no symphonies, ballet, opera, stage shows, major league sports to compete with. For example imagine my surprise as a gymnast going to a packed Rec Hall at PSU, used to performing in front of at most 100 people performing in front of a few thousand knowledgeable fans on a frigid night.

    The culture is totally different at PSU and WVU, maybe because they represent a state’s pride where most Pittsburgher’s have no allegiance to Pitt. Heck even Duquesne Graduates, maybe because they were isolated on a bluff have more spirit generally speaking.

    No doubt Pitt’s lack of winning has had a lot do do with the I don’t care attitude. When you add fewer Pitt Grads with a high percentage of no interest in sports, it is not hard to understand. I guess the biggest concerns about poor school spirit relate to recruiting players and athletic fund raising. (Aha moment)

    I still wouldn’t trade my years at Pitt for anything and the subsequent awe when Pitt was on or near the top of the football world and the competitive basketball years for anything.

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  14. Tex – you should have lived in Guam at some point. While 30 hours without power sucks during our two years stationed in Guam we experienced five typhoons and were without power for over 200 of the 730 or so days we were living there.

    The island was still on the WW2 power lines the Seabees erected after we chased the Japanese out.

    Our three year old daughter used to wake up and say “Power Off” if her room was dark and “Power on” if it had lights.

    Speaking of the Seabees Admiral Ben Moreel started them in WW2 then after his retirement lived and worked in Pittsburgh – living at what is now called the Frank House on the Chatham campus:

    One day after he retired, Ben Moreell was elected President of the Turner Construction Company of New York. After a few months at Turner, Moreell became Chairman of the Board and President of the Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Under his leadership Jones & Laughlin initiated a $500 million expansion program which added impetus to Pittsburgh’s redevelopment. When Jones & Laughlin decided to build a new $70 million open hearth shop in a blighted area of Pittsburgh’s South Side, Ben Moreell, working with the union and city government, found homes for the 296 families that had to relocate from the area.

    In 1951 the Junior Chamber of Commerce chose Ben Moreell as the “Pittsburgh Man of the Year.” He also received the Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews that year. In 1956 he received the Page One Award of the Pittsburgh Newspaper Guild. Writing in The Freeman Magazine, Rev. Edmund A. Opitz said of him:

    He is a naval engineer who is now one of the nation’s top-flight industrialists. Among industrialists, he is one of the most vigorous and articulate spokesman for free capitalistic enterprise. In addition, Ben Moreell is a prime mover in the well-known “Pittsburgh Experiment” which brings religion into the market places and social clubs of that city. It is evident that the Admiral’s concern for individual freedom and limited government is inseparable from his religious beliefs.

    ADM Moreell gave up the presidency of Jones & Laughlin in 1952, but remained Chairman of the Board until 1957 and stayed on the Board of Directors until his retirement in 1964. For some years after that, he worked as a private business consultant.

    I used to spend a lot of time at the Frank House’s indoor swimming pool because I was best friends with the Admiral’s great step-grandson. The house was designed by the famous architect Marcel Breuer. Check it out –

    FRANK HOUSE

    https://www.builderonline.com/photos/the-alan-i-w-frank-house

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  15. Also some other WW2 Pittsburgh related facts:

    US Army General Matthew Ridgeway retired to Fox Chapel after he left active duty. He was very instrumental in our victory in that war – one of his many accomplishments was being first Commander of the famous 82nd Airborne Division.

    The 82nd was the main air offense during the invasion of Normandy (D-Day) and dropped thousands of advance Army Rangers in ahead of our naval & ground forces storming the beaches. But he did tons of other amazing stuff in uniform and out.

    In his retirement he was head of the Mellon Institute whose headquarters is still on Pitt’s campus.

    “Ridgway remained active in retirement, both in leadership capacities and as a speaker and author. He relocated to the Pittsburgh suburb of Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania in 1955 after accepting the chairmanship of the board of trustees of the Mellon Institute as well as a position on the board of directors of Gulf Oil Corporation, among others. The year after his retirement, he published his autobiography, Soldier: The Memoirs of Matthew B. Ridgway.

    In 1960, Ridgway retired from his position at the Mellon Institute but continued to serve on multiple corporate boards of directors, Pittsburgh civic groups and Pentagon strategic study committees.”

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Happened to be in the neighborhood the day it was being filmed in the middle of the afternoon. 100 degrees and humid. Lots of fake white stuff dropped from a crane.

        Of course, looked nothing like the night scene it became in the movie.

        Like

  16. I’m glad my time off the grid wasn’t that long. My upstairs did get down to 35 degrees and my pointer was shivering despite being covered in blankets. That’s when I knew to send the wife, dogs and my daughter to her sisters 30 minutes away who had heat. My son and I braved it out.

    I haven’t had warm food or a warm shower in nearly two days. And it’s Fat Tuesday today. I’m about to head out for some Mardis gras beer.

    Some things I think could help with spirit

    Scheduling – get your rivals back. Easier said for basketball though. But why can’t pitt play UConn, nova and g town again?

    Can the students bring in banners or flags to the stadium. Drop them off the night before, security brings them up, students unfurl and wave before kickoff, security takes them and stores them. Think premier league soccer

    For alumni and fans, has the university ever recognized a tailgate crew or fan? Have them put a spotlight on these groups and individuals each week

    Have fans share their stories just like you all have. What made you a pitt fan. What were your most memorable games. What schools are your rivals. Who are your favorite all time players. What was your best road trip to a game. Which fan came in the farthest for this game. Etc

    Also many have talked about those chalkboard discussions. Even some real meet and greets where your question gets an answer. Enough with the pre canned questions and generic sanitized answers.

    Engage with me via email and social media. Drop by the POV one day

    Not sure what pre game day or game day traditions there really are. But reevaluate your songs, chants and activities to get more people energized and involved

    Have the students interact more with the athletes. Might be tough to do with football due to separate housing and cafeteria. Get athletes and students involved in group community projects. It’s far easier to root and attend when you know someone on the team.

    And if that doesn’t work, use my idea of a rewards card to bribe the students to attend games. Once they earn enough points, they can spend it. Once students attend an Olympic sport game, they could become hooked.

    Have the students clean up the stadium after games. Have them take ownership. Pride springs from ownership.

    Those are just some pragmatic and simple ideas that won’t cost pitt anything. All I ask pitt is to try and for fans to take the offer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tex,

      Just a couple reactions in no particular order:

      I thought all you Texans cooked over open fires while the coyotes howl? Just kidding, but perhaps a portable generator will be a good investment?
      you should get on the fan committee. A number of good ideas above. Perhaps Reed can ask Mr. Borghetti to get you on the next one.
      I went to a Pitt game at Chapel Hill a few years back. A frat bro is a Tarhell season ticket holder. He won the “Bojangles Tailgate of the Week” while I visited with him. They showered the party with more biscuits and chicken than you can imagine. Took a photo of them standing behind this mountain of yellow Bo Time boxes and put it on the scoreboard during the game. Its apparently a big deal down there and my buddy was quite pleased. (But good gosh, the last thing the best tailgate needs is more food)
      .
      I was named “fan of the game” at the last home game vs Penn State. A bunch of cheerleaders (cuties too!) came up, they gave me a gift bag and put me on the JumboTron. It was hilarious. The ticket office set that up because they knew I drive up from VA for the games.
      .
      Great point about the athletes co-mingling with the rest of the students. While at Richmond, Mike London was a hallmate, along with a few other FB players. When you live near them, they become peopl to you and you see firsthand how much they have on their plates. Makes you want go and support them,
      .
      In order to get seats in the student section for MBB at UVA, students must attend other sporting events, excluding football games. They give points for that and one needs to hit a certain point level. It works – my daughter and son-in-law both did that while there.
      .
      Speaking of UVA, they have a drawing for a semester’s tuition at each home FB to a random student who has remained until the end.
      .
      Chalk talk…. that’s a tough one. I don’t think that’s a Narduzzi skill set. He’d have to work from a script and that would ruin the personal feel. Perhaps have him delegate that to another member of his staff who is a better public speaker (implement with the next HC). Or perhaps someone like Pat Bostick to handle the questions.

      Again, thanks for leading a good discussion today.

      Like

  17. A good article, Tex, and many good comments from others. I think one of the main drivers of the higher degree of school spirit seen in PSU students and alumni was Joe Paterno’s “Grand Experiment”, The Penn State Way, … and other euphemisms designed to brainwash PSU fans into thinking they are not only different but better than other universities. Remember when other schools were taking Prop 48 athletes, Paterno would say they would not do that implying that PSU had more academic integrity. That is until Floyd Wedderburn indicated he was interested in Penn State. Then they made a magnanimous gesture for the young man.

    The conscious, deliberate marketing program pushed by Paterno and supported by the University administration created a couple of generations of arrogant, self-righteous alumni and even fans who never attended the school. Never mind the hypocrisy of playing a player in a bowl game weeks after he had been expelled by the school because technically the expulsion began in the next semester. I will always believe that the success of that marketing program was the main and maybe the only reason that Paterno was able to convince the administrators to not rock the boat in the Sandusky crime.

    So, while a comparison of our school spirit to that of PSU is worth discussing and the differences are very real, personally I wouldn’t want to pay that price for improved school spirit. To this day, most of the PSU fans I know have sold their soul to that deceased decrepit old man. That worthless piece of excrement.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Tex – you offered this approach:

    Also many have talked about those chalkboard discussions. Even some real meet and greets where your question gets an answer. Enough with the pre canned questions and generic sanitized answers.”

    Here is a true story. I went to Narduzzi’s first 2015 Spring Ball practice press interview and after he talked for awhile he opened it up for questions. After the main press guys asked their softball questions I asked him “Now that you are in the ACC which has more open offenses how are you going to adapt to that given your experience in the run first Big 10?” Simple question right?

    He didn’t think so – first he hesitated then he said “We won’t run the ball at all then – we’ll just pass the ball on every down. Pass, pass, pass!” about as snide as one can be.

    So, I asked back “How are you going to do that with a QB that isn’t all that great at passing and what will you do with James Conner, move him to wide receiver?” (Chad Voytik was QB at the time Peterman enrolled in June and wasn’t being asked to join Pitt before spring practice ended).

    He got pissed and abruptly closed down the conference. He’s still snarky with the local reporters.

    Like

    1. ^^^ In other words it will be a cold day in Hell if Narduzzi is anything but spouting party line and canned answers with students and fans. I’ve been to four alumni events with him and he says just about the same thing each time.

      Like

    1. I’m drinking because tomorrow I fast. And I damn well deserve a drink after nearly two days of no warm food or shower. More snow and freezing rain on its way tonight. I’ll be without power tomorrow for sure.

      North Texas hasn’t seen this kind of weather since ‘43 I believe. Some of you guys might remember that year. 🤠

      Like

  19. Hovering over the question of Penn State support and spirit vs. Pitt, consider how we have fared: Hart 0-3, DePasqua 0-4, Majors 1-3, Sherrill 2-3, Fazio 1-2-1m Gottfried 2-2, Hackett 0-3, Harris 1-3, Narduzzi 1-3. Both Sherrill and Gottfried had the chance to win three straight but failed, Sherrill failed miserably in ’81 and Gottfried failed by a field goal in ’89. Most disappointing is Narduzzi’s effort, putting on the clown-car show in 2018 – that game with the non-stop penalties and offense ineptitude was too difficult to sit through – and the cognitive dissonance field goal brain fart of 2019. We aren’t Nebraska or Michigan where fans come out in mass no matter what. Versus Penn State we have been perpetually undone. Cheers, fans, money and fame go to the winner who regularly was not us..

    Like

  20. Reed – I’ve noticed the the comment field is using a font size that my 61 year old eyes can barely read WITH cheaters. Once posted the text size increase, revealing to me all of my before unseen spelling gaffes. This seemed to change a fe months back. Not sure if its on my end or the site’s, but I cannot see how to adjust the size up. Anything you can do on your end?

    Like

  21. Pitt women basketballers just won at BC 83 to 80. Pitt was down by 15 in the first half and it looked like another clunker, but Pitt cut down on the turnovers and won the final 3 quarters to win a nail-biter.

    Small progress is better than none. Still primarily a sophomore and freshman team. Crazy parallels between the men’s and women’s teams with up-and-down play at the PG position too many turnovers, and the need for more from their post players…

    Go Pitt.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Money infusion … then winning … Have to spend money to make money.

    In a city you have to field a winner. It’s going to be tough to get folks out for two games a weekend when the Steelers are at home, too. Or there is a Pens game or a Pirates game.

    My wife’s parents live 10 minutes from Beaver Stadium … the reason they get so many fans is the closest pro game is 3 hours away in Pittsburgh or Philly. Sure, you get the city folk who want to spend a weekend on campus but the majority of people attending are central PA residents.

    Same goes for all the SEC schools and most of the B1G schools. College football is the professional football, professional basketball, professional hockey and baseball all rolled into one. The competition is minor league sports.

    Paying athletes could be a game changer for a city school like Pitt. Have to hope the NCAA doesn’t put the kibosh on it. The sheer quantity of businesses that could offer endorsement contracts to Pitt players is astronomical when compared to rural schools. That’s where Pitt has to really leverage it’s advantage.

    UPMC has it’s name on Duquesne’s arena … How many colleges have another school branded on it? Pitt has to go all in on the endorsement opportunities for it’s student athletes.

    Like

  23. I had my first fairly long post disappear into the ether so I will try to break it up into a couple of smaller parts. Firstly, Tex I am glad your power is back on and your hiatus from the POV was shorter than advertised. Thanks for the food for thought.

    Like

  24. I have a couple of ideas that might help football attendance and develop a few more lifelong fans. FrankMD mentioned the branch campuses. If we think there isn’t much going on at State College beside football, believe me, there isn’t much going on Johnstown, Bradford, or Greensburg.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pitt should make a commitment to get at least a few buses worth of students down to the home games and have the bases leave early enough for the kids to enjoy the pregame tailgating experience.

      Like

  25. Also, I don’t know if it is commonly known, but musicians from the smaller Pittsburgh area colleges who don’t have FB teams can try out for and be in the Pitt Marching Band.

    Like

    1. Similarly, the Athletic Department should offer students from any of the area colleges student rush single and or season tickets (which the Penguins do).

      Like

  26. This would allow those students the opportunity to experience big time college football and become Pitt fans even if they went to Carlow, Chatham, CCAC, Point Park, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. All good ideas that need to be explored. Hopefully the Pitt minions who lurk in the shadows are taking notes.

    Here’s a good article on how covid is impacting college sports departments. I plan on writing something about pitt on this matter. Right now the university says no cuts are being planned. I say pitt is not vaccinated and immune from these economics.

    Time to make some tough business decisions.

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/college-sports-cuts-gymnastics-swimming-pandemic-60-minutes-2020-12-06/

    Like

    1. Tell them to pay for uber cars to the game for the kids. Get them a promo code for 35 percent off or something. Nobody wants to ride a school bus.
      Also free scholarships for 4 students each game. Stay till the end give mom and dad a 1 year break on the cost.
      The cost to Pitt is negligible.

      Like

  28. Regarding comment box vs posting font size. I made the comment box font as small as I could because jagoffs, hackers and trolls are notorious for their beady little eyes and so they can’t see what they are typing!

    Notice no trolls or jagoffs on here since I did that three days ago?

    Brilliant!!!!!

    (JK)

    Liked by 4 people

  29. I believe Pitt does offer busses to UPJ students. At least they did a dozen years ago. It is a long day for those kids. I agree about the money infusion for more general and targeted marketing. As far as Pitt gear, too hard to find off campus and I don’t believe it is all about demand. For example when Costco offers, shirts, jackets, hats, they seem to go as fast as PSU’s. For some reason, see very little in the Strip or other outlets like Malls.

    Again much more competition with pro teams and other schools in the City vs Central PA. But you would think when you are not the only game in town you would market harder. Plenty of Billboards to be had in Pittsburgh. Everyone wearing Pitt Gear is marketing, make it easier to find and cheaper to buy.

    I always thought they should sell Letter jackets to Lettermen and women to wear at events when the originals wear out, or don’t fit anymore. You rarely see any winter Pitt jackets like you see Steelers and Pens or rain gear suitable for Football games.

    Like

    1. Great idea on the letterman jackets.

      One thing that has happened recently is much, much better treatment of lettermen before football games. Used to be an embarrassing setup in the Great Hall. Now they have a nice setup with a tent along the river…

      Go Pitt.

      Like

  30. Developing and sustaining school spirit falls squarely on the shoulders of the university. I’ll use very recent experience with Pitt as a starting point. (Again with my daughter) when she was accepted to Pitt it started with an AR video that was personalized to her with her name all over the Pitt campus, at the cathedral, the Zoo, etc. even had a teacher hand her a graded paper w an A+ and she said nice job Sarah. Then came the package with letter, stickers, poster, etc. My wife and I loved it and my daughter was all in and excited. The stickers went right on her laptop.

    Shortly after that we went on line to the Pitt shop and bought gear. I couldn’t help to think how great it would have been to give accepted students a coupon for a discount on gear or a free mug or shirt if they bought something.
    I can’t help but think that after all the live videos and Hail to Pitt and enthusiasm spent on the on boarding will soon stop and the University will push the spirit pile across the table to the students to cultivate.
    It certainly is a partnership, but more needs to be done to suck students, alumni and the community into the brand. Welcome them and celebrate on the front porch.
    Post covid, Pitt and all other universities have a great opportunity to welcome students back to campus (I hope). More than ever schools will face unprecedented levels of competition for students. Marketing groups need to be jumping on this now!

    Liked by 3 people

  31. On campus stadium 🏟
    Continuous busses back and forth to stadium/campus for both students AND alumni
    create a more raucous Oakland Zoo at football games
    more pre and post game tailgating opportunities
    better game day atmosphere outside stadium
    sell out the lower bowl 100% then work your way up
    better alumni engagement
    whatever happened to the “celebrated” game day experience group? Never saw a product or report. My guess is that they disappeared into the night. Make this game more prominent and hold them accountable for ideas and the u over airy for implementing them

    Like

    1. There was an app a few years ago that was focused on Western PA Lenten fish frys. Would show you on a map the closest ones to you – made me chuckle.

      Tough to any in Central Virginia as well. Im sure there would be plenty if it included pork.

      Like

  32. Here’s an interesting stat from Josh Roundtree (play-by-play Guy) for the Pitt women’s BB team:

    “Panthers have had 4 of their 5 highest scoring quarters in program history in the last 11 games, including a 30-point 3rd quarter tonight.” (The women’s game went to quarters in 2015. )

    They still are doing a lot of Head-scratching, maddening stuff, but if you get a chance, watch the highlights from last night’s win at BC. If they can continue to cut down on the blunders, these women can play some ball.

    Go Pitt.

    Like

  33. Yes, I know the game is on, but I have one more idea that I wanted to add to Tex Pitt Spirit thread.
    Despite Pitt saying that the school and UPMC are separate entities, Pitt does offer a discount on season tickets to UPMC employees. I suggest growing the fan base by expanding that discount to both healthcare providers who treat UPMC patients (that would include me) and to those covered by UPMC Health plans. Additionally, as opposed to simply offering the discount, they should be proactive through mailers, emails, etc to those groups encouraging them to join the Pitt family.

    Like

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