On November 6, the second-ranked Panthers hosted Army at Pitt Stadium and won handily, but the significant action was taking place several hundred miles west, in West Lafayette, Indiana, where the Purdue Boilermakers held off the top-ranked Michigan Wolverines 16–14 in the closing seconds. The Pitt Stadium crowd erupted in celebration when the stadium public address announcer dramatically gave the final score from Purdue. For the first time in the modern era, Panther fans could legitimately claim, “We’re number one!” Pitt defended its ranking in a close Backyard Brawl against West Virginia to go 10–0 heading into the regular-season finale on national television against in-state rival Penn State (7–3).
At a packed Three Rivers Stadium on the night after Thanksgiving, the Nittany Lions scored first and held Dorsett to 51 yards in the first half; the game was tied at seven at halftime. Majors adjusted for the second half by shifting Dorsett from tailback to fullback, enabling him to explode for an additional 173 yards as Pitt rolled to a 24–7 victory to cap an undefeated regular season.
In December, Dorsett became the first (and remains the only), Pitt Panther, to win the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s best college football player. Dorsett also won the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, and was named UPI Player of the Year. He led the nation in rushing with 1,948 yards and was selected as an All-American. Dorsett finished his college career with 6,082 total rushing yards, then an NCAA record for career rushing.
The 11–0 Panthers accepted an invitation to the Sugar Bowl to face fifth-ranked Georgia. Pitt defeated the Bulldogs 27–3 and was voted number one by both the Associated Press and Coaches polls, claiming their ninth national championship. This was Pitt’s first undefeated national championship since 1937. The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) named Majors the 1976 Coach of the Year. Following this historic season, Majors returned to his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, to take the head coaching job.
Marino attended the University of Pittsburgh and played for the university’s Pittsburgh Panthers football team from 1979 to 1982. As a freshman in 1979, Marino led the Panthers in a 24–17 triumph over West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl and a 29−14 win over longtime rival Penn State. Pitt’s 1980 Marino-led team finished No. 2 in the season-ending rankings (The New York Times computer poll rated Pitt as No. 1). Marino was part of an elite team during those two years that included two other future NFL Hall of Fame players: Defensive lineman Rickey Jackson and center Russ Grimm, as well as future Pro Bowl linebacker Hugh Green and future Pro Bowl guard Mark May. In 1980, Pitt added future NFL players Bill Maas, Dwight Collins, and Tim Lewis, while their offensive line got a third future Pro Bowl player: tackle Jimbo Covert. “There were games when my uniform never got dirty,” Marino once remarked. “There were games when I never hit the ground. That’s incredible.”
Following the 1981 regular season, Marino led the Panthers, who had been ranked No. 1 most of the season, to a last-minute triumph over the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs in the 1982 Sugar Bowl by throwing a game-winning pass to tight end John Brown with less than a minute remaining in the game. Marino later cited this as the most memorable pass he’d thrown in his college career. Overall, during the three seasons from 1979 thru 1981, Pitt garnered 33 wins with only 3 losses (three straight 11–1 season) and was constantly ranked in the Top 5 of both major media polls. The Pitt football team’s fortunes and Marinos’s statistics dipped during his senior year, which saw the team transition from head coach Jackie Sherrill to new coach Foge Fazio, culminating in a 7–3 loss in the 1983 Cotton Bowl Classic to Southern Methodist University and their “Pony Express” of Eric Dickerson and Craig James. Marino finished ninth in voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1982, after finishing fourth the previous year. Marino finished his four college seasons with 7,905 passing yards and 74 touchdowns, with 64 interceptions.
Varsity Walk is a walkway between the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Memorial Chapel on which is carved the names of former Pitt athletes (each year since 1950) who have promoted the university through their athletic (Panther Award) or academic (Blue-Gold Award) achievements.
In a tradition that began in 1983, the upper section of the Cathedral of Learning is illuminated “gold” after every home football team victory, as well as important victories in other sports.
College Sports Established
University of Pittsburgh
1973 – Present / NCAA Division 1
1921 – 1973 / University Division of the NCAA
1907 – 1921 / Athletic Association of the United States
2013 – Present / ACC
1982 – 2013 / Big East Conference
1978 – 1990 / Independent
Panthers – The University of Pittsburgh adopted the Panther as its official animal and mascot on November 16, 1909 at a meeting of students and alumni. This adoption occurred shortly after the university, previously known as the Western University of Pennsylvania, obtained an alteration to its charter in the summer of 1908 in order to change its name to the University of Pittsburgh. When named the Western University of Pennsylvania, the university had been referred to by the nickname of “Wup” (pronounced Whup) and athletic teams referred to as the “Wups”, a play on the school’s abbreviation W.U.P. At this time, the university also began the process of moving from what is now Pittsburgh’s North Side to its current location in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. According to George M. P. Baird (class of 1909), who made the suggestion for the Panther as the university’s mascot, the reasons it was chosen were:
1. The Panther was the most formidable creature once indigenous to the Pittsburgh region.
2. It had ancient, heraldic standing as a noble animal.
3. The happy accident of alliteration.
4. The close approximation of its hue to the old gold of the University’s colors (old gold and blue), hence its easy adaptability in decoration.
Men’s Basketball 2
Women’s Basketball 0
1976, 1937, 1936, 1934, 1931, 1929, 1918, 1916, 1915