The Pitt News

Pitt is lit: bonfire sparks students’ school spirit

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Thursday night's bonfire glowed in front of the blue and gold lights on the Cathedral of Learning. | Meghan Sunners / Senior Staff Photographer

Thursday night's bonfire glowed in front of the blue and gold lights on the Cathedral of Learning. | Meghan Sunners / Senior Staff Photographer

Thursday night's bonfire glowed in front of the blue and gold lights on the Cathedral of Learning. | Meghan Sunners / Senior Staff Photographer

By Andrew O'Brien / Staff Writer

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Less than forty hours before the first football game of the season, head football coach Pat Narduzzi rallied Pitt students and alumni into a school spirit frenzy.

In front of a blazing bonfire, a crowd of students and alumni chorused along to Pitt’s alma mater, as Narduzzi took the makeshift stage to let his audience know what the Panthers plan to show them this year.

“We’re going to let the Panthers out of the cage,” he yelled to deafening cheers. “We expect our guys to play for four quarters, and the fourth will be the best!”

On Thursday night, Pitt fans of all ages swarmed onto the lawn of the Cathedral of Learning to show their school spirit in anticipation of the upcoming football season. Pitt Program Council’s Annual Bonfire and Pep Rally drew a crowd of nearly 2,000 people, chanting “Hail to Pitt!” in unison and dancing to blaring music.

Pitt’s marching band played upbeat anthems as people continued to trickle onto the Cathedral lawn and, by 8:45p.m., the crowd reached into the thousands.

Though Pitt’s season begins at Heinz Field at 1:30 p.m. this Saturday, as the Panthers take on the Villanova Wildcats, the crowd wasn’t shy about its feelings for the week-two matchup against Penn State.

As the bonfire’s flames rose, so did a chant of “F— Penn State!”

Narduzzi’s energy was infectious. Though Madeline Mitchell had only been on campus a little more than a week, the first-year pharmacy major said she couldn’t wait to attend her first Pitt football game.

“[In high school] I was in marching band, I was field commander, so I was very into the football scene,” said Mitchell. “Going [to the games] and being spirited with everyone is so fun, and when you win it’s obviously great.”

Amid cries from the crowd, fireworks shot up into the air, flashing blue and yellow as they burst. As the volley of fireworks slowed, the scent of gasoline hung thick in the air and the bonfire suddenly flared to life.

The fire stretched high overhead ––  but only for a few minutes. When flames spread from the wooden pallets that made up its foundation to a patch of grass nearby, a team with fire hoses moved in. They soaked down the lit grass and the entire bonfire, snuffing out the flames less than 10 minutes after they began.

Cheerleaders channeled the crowd's energy before the bonfire began. | Meghan Sunners / Senior Staff Photographer

Cheerleaders channeled the crowd’s energy before the bonfire began. | Meghan Sunners / Senior Staff Photographer

The crowd’s passion Thursday night wasn’t limited to football, though. Junior Hunter Stape and senior Madison Gongaware ––  both chemistry majors ––  held hands near the back of the crowd and talked about pH. Gongaware said the two met at Hempfield Area High School in Greensburg and have been dating for three years.

“I got a season ticket and I was supposed to buy hers, too,” Stape said. “But I forgot, and now I don’t really want to go. I don’t feel like going without her.”

For others, nothing can keep them away from the football games. Before the event started, junior electrical engineering major Justin Pavlick jumped and danced around to the pop music blaring over the speakers in front of the Cathedral.

“This is my first time coming to a bonfire … [but] I go to every home game,” Pavlick said. “It’s interesting to see what football does to people, all my friends scream and yell and go crazy.”

Pavlick said he’s looking forward to the Pitt vs. Penn State game on Sept. 10 in particular.

“I’m going in painted all over,” Pavlick said. “Pitt-blue with yellow lettering.”

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Pitt is lit: bonfire sparks students’ school spirit