Trietley: Pitt athletic teams suffer from losing epidemic

By Greg Trietley

So I spent this past weekend thinking of a proper movie analogy for Pitt sports.

First, I… So I spent this past weekend thinking of a proper movie analogy for Pitt sports.

First, I thought of the program as a monster movie. You walk outside. “Is it unusually windy today?” you wonder. Suddenly, in the distance, Pitt football arises from a crater. Someone shouts a command to flee, and you do — after all, it’s the start of the fourth quarter.

But then, from the opposite direction, Pitt men’s basketball descends from the mountainside, spewing turnovers and missed layups.

Why won’t my car start!?

Then, bursting up through the ground, women’s basketball.

Ah! Ahh!!!

Accurate, right? Unfortunately, since Pitt’s athletic program doesn’t include a single sport featuring lasers, robots or Tom Cruise, I settled on outbreak movies for my comparison instead. Think “Contagion,” “28 Days Later” or “War of the Worlds” from the aliens’ perspective. Somewhere in Buffalo, Dave Wannstedt eats an infected chicken wing, and eventually Travon Woodall has to spend eight weeks in quarantine.

I don’t know exactly where or when it started, but losing — losing games, losing coaches, losing players — has spread throughout Pitt athletics. Men’s basketball hasn’t won in 36 days. Everyone knows about it. The Panthers defeated Saint Francis (Pa.) 71-47 on Dec. 20. Since then, eight losses.

It’s the longest losing streak in the Jamie Dixon era. It’s so long that media outlets have been forced to find more creative ways to express the slide. We’re nearing “the price of gas the last time…” territory for it.

The infection of mediocrity (mediocritis?) certainly didn’t spawn at the Petersen Events Center — once a shelter from previous outbreaks of rampant athletic failure — but the arena must have metaphorical standing water these days. The women’s basketball team has gone nearly four weeks and six games without a win after showing promise in competition over winter break.

And football, well: Paul Chryst is the fourth head coach in the past 13 months. The Panthers lost in the Compass Bowl to Southern Methodist 28-6, which means it will carry a one-game losing streak with it for a full eight months. The team last won on Dec. 3, beating Syracuse at Heinz Field 33-20.

The football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball teams have no wins in 2012, which, come to think of it, is another movie that you can shoehorn into a Pitt sports metaphor.

We should have known this epidemic was coming. The smaller sports were a sign, as they always are. Or is that birds?

Men’s soccer finished its fall season on a six-game losing streak. Women’s soccer, 2-13-4 last year, ended its campaign with a three-game winless drought. The women’s Oct. 9 win over St. John’s, 6-1, is the most recent Pitt victory at the Petersen Sports Complex.

Baseball and softball — sports that had successful regular seasons last spring — both lost in the opening round of their postseason tournaments. Women’s volleyball had the same fate. That program, a fall sport, last won on Nov. 13, back when there were only three Missions Impossible.

Baseball and softball seasons start Feb. 17. If the men’s basketball team drops Wednesday’s home game against Providence, is it possible the baseball or softball team might earn a victory first? After the Friars, men’s basketball plays No. 9 Georgetown (6-2 Big East), West Virginia (5-2) twice, Villanova (3-5), South Florida (5-2) and Seton Hall (4-3) before the Pitt ballplayers take the mound.

Meanwhile, the wrestling team, undefeated in 16 consecutive conference matches, must have immunity. Those Panthers are the key to unlocking a cure, a minor character explains to me.