What you missed in Pitt sports during the summer months

By Pete Blais

At the end of April, most students are fortunate enough to travel home and enjoy their lengthy…At the end of April, most students are fortunate enough to travel home and enjoy their lengthy summer break. But that doesn’t mean Pitt sports stop when the spring semester ends.

Some Pitt athletes are deservedly given a break from their grueling schedules during the summer, but sports are never out of the news altogether.

In case you were too busy sleeping or sunbathing these last few months, here’s what you missed in the world of Pitt sports:

May 6 — Big East Outdoor Track and Field Championships

Not long after summer began, the Pitt men’s and women’s track and field teams traveled to South Florida for the Big East Outdoor Championships, where they finished third and sixth, respectively.

At the conclusion of the three-day competition, 14 Pitt runners received All-Big East Honors, and several of them also competed at both regional and national levels.

Seniors Jermaine Lowery and Cambrya Jones were among the seven Panthers that advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in early June, although none were able to advance past the first round of heats.

The Pitt track and field team returns to action in early December with the Blue-Gold meet, as it looks to build on last season’s success.

May 25 — Men’s hoops transfer Trey Zeigler declared eligible for upcoming season

When the NCAA ruled that Trey Zeigler, an incoming men’s basketball transfer from Central Michigan, would be eligible to play for the Panthers this season, the news was so significant that Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon announced it on his Twitter.

“Just heard from NCAA that Trey Zeigler will be eligible to play this year,” Dixon said, tweeting for the first time in almost three years.

Zeigler, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, scored more than 1,000 points at Central Michigan, averaging 16.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in his two years at the school.

He will begin playing next season for the Panthers as a junior and will have two years of eligibility remaining.

May 28 — Panthers win first Ultimate title

After several close calls in recent years, the Pitt men’s Ultimate frisbee team finally won the USA Ultimate Division I College Championship in Boulder, Colo.

Led by star senior Alex Thorne, the Panthers topped the Wisconsin Badgers in the final, 15-10, earning the club its first championship since its inception in 1998.

Returning team captain Zach Kauffman said Pitt wants to retain the crown next season.

“The goal is to win nationals,” Kauffman said. “We’re planning on going back-to-back; it’s what we’re striving for.”

June 18 — Pitt hoops newcomers debut at Greentree

As the Pitt men’s basketball program looks to rebound from a difficult 2011-2012 campaign, fans got a taste of what is to come when the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am summer league displayed the talents of several new Panthers.

Hundreds of fans packed into the gymnasium at the Greentree SportsPlex to watch Pitt’s three talked-about newcomers, Zeigler, freshman center Steven Adams and freshman point guard James Robinson, play with fellow Panther and returning junior Lamar Patterson on the PGT Trucking team.

PGT won that night, and the team featuring four Panthers would eventually win the summer league in dramatic fashion a few weeks later, thanks to an overtime victory against a team stacked with Robert Morris and Duquesne players.

June 28 – Big East basketball matchups released

When those new faces in Pitt basketball begin playing games for the Panthers, they will face a challenging Big East conference schedule that includes several much-anticipated home games.

That’s because when the Big East released its conference matchup schedule for all 15 teams, Pitt fans instantly became excited after seeing that the Panthers will host Connecticut, Marquette, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Villanova this season. Also coming to the Petersen Events Center will be Cincinnati, DePaul, Seton Hall and South Florida.

Each team in the conference must face four teams twice, and Pitt will face Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette and Villanova both at home and away this season.

July 18 — Pitt agrees to pay fee to leave Big East in 2013

Perhaps the biggest news to affect Pitt Athletics this summer was the announcement that the University and the Big East Conference had reached an agreement that will allow the Panthers to join the Atlantic Coast Conference next summer.

In an agreement similar to the one Syracuse reached to leave the Big East for the ACC, Pitt will make a total cash payment of $7.5 million to exit the Big East and join the ACC on July 1, 2013. The payment will be $2.5 million more than the $5 million withdrawal fee required under Big East bylaws had Pitt waited until 2014 to exit the conference.

“We have appreciated and enjoyed our membership in the Big East and wish them much success in the future,” Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said in a statement. “We are anxious to compete in our final season in the Big East and look forward to an exciting future in the Atlantic Coast Conference.”

Aug. 4 — Pair of former Panthers inducted into NFL Hall of Fame

Former Pitt football players Curtis Martin and Chris Doleman became the seventh and eighth former Panthers to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame when they made their emotional enshrinement speeches.

Martin, who played running back at Pitt from 1991 to 1994 before starring on the New England Patriots and the New York Jets in the NFL, brought tears to the eyes of many in attendance at the ceremony in Canton, Ohio. In his speech, he talked about how his mother rescued him from a life of drugs and violence by forcing him to play football.

But Doleman, who dominated at defensive end for the Panthers from 1981 to 1984 and spent much of his pro career with the Minnesota Vikings, concluded his speech on a lighter note.

“Anything you want in life, you can get through sacks,” Doleman said with a smile.

Aug. 6 — Football camp opens

And just two days later, the group of current Panthers got back to work at Pitt’s South Side practice facilities as new head football coach Paul Chryst opened his first summer training camp.

“We have a lot of goals, but we have to work to improve,” Chryst said after the first day of practice. “You’re a better team if each individual gets better, and we’re trying to be the best we can be.”

Pitt fans were excited to hear that star running back Ray Graham participated in most of the drills in the opening week of practice as he recovers from a knee injury that ended his 2011 season, but it still remains to be seen if he will be ready to suit up for the opener.

The 2012 season will begin on Sept. 1 for the Panthers as they face Youngstown State at Heinz Field. The other five games Pitt will host throughout the fall include matchups against Virginia Tech, Gardner-Webb, Louisville, Temple and Rutgers.