High expectations run rampant among today’s Pitt fans


Kaycee Orwig | Visual Editor

The Oakland Zoo celebrates the first basket of the Pitt men’s basketball game versus West Virginia in November with the traditional tossing of newspaper shreds.

By Alex Lehmbeck, Senior Staff Writer

The Pitt News put out a Pitt athletics fan survey to our readers for the past few weeks. Questioned on topics new and old, readers proved to be a dedicated fanbase with high expectations for the present day’s teams, but also nostalgic for the glory days of Pitt athletics. Here are the full details.

How long have you been a Pitt fan?

The survey received results mostly from students. The majority of respondents were relatively new to Panther nation, with nearly 59% yet to reach more than a decade of Pitt fandom tenure.

How many Pitt sporting events do you attend per year?

More than half of respondents said they attend at least five Pitt sporting events per year, and more than 80% attend at least three.

The unofficial Mount Rushmore of Pitt sports

Dan Marino

Aaron Donald

Tony Dorsett

Larry Fitzgerald

Football players dominated the board, comprising the top vote-getters. But even if you only included football players, this would be one of the toughest decisions to make, as many NFL legends have donned the blue and gold. Pitt’s nine NFL Hall of Fame inductees ranks fifth of all time, which will continue to rise as players such as Aaron Donald, Larry Fitzgerald and LeSean McCoy finish their illustrious careers.

Marino, a Pittsburgh native who played for the Panthers from 1979-82, led the pack, although Dorsett, Pitt’s lone Heisman Trophy winner, wasn’t too far behind. Both of them landed on more than 64% of ballots. Fitzgerald, an 11-time NFL pro bowl selection, earned himself an invitation to the club with 36 votes. Two-time NFL defensive player of the year Donald, the youngest of the bunch, grabbed the final spot.

Most underrated (current) Pitt athlete:

Men’s basketball guard Au’Diese Toney landed on top at 18% in a contested race between his first-year sensation teammate Justin Champagnie at 13% and football safety Paris Ford at 16%.

Part of Jeff Capel’s first recruiting class, Toney’s stout defense earned a starting role for the rebuilding Panthers in his first year. As a sophomore, Toney’s offensive capabilities skyrocketed, making him arguably Pitt’s most reliable player on both ends of the floor during the team’s tumultuous season. He finished the season averaging 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, shooting an impressive 46.1% from the field. 

Most underrated Pitt athlete (all time):

Another tight one, but this question saw an assortment of selections with no one or two answers sailing way ahead. Although Kenny Pickett barely placed in the top five as the most underrated current player, he came only one vote shy of the most underrated Pitt athlete of all time.

LeSean McCoy came up with the victory, though. The quick-cutting, highlight-spurning tailback earned one more vote than Pickett, Dion Lewis, Lawrence Fields and Hugh Green.

Most overrated Pitt athlete (all time):

It takes true skill to be both overrated and underrated at the same time. Pickett is one of those special people.

Which Pitt athletics program will be the next to win a national championship?

No surprises with this question. Dan Fischer’s volleyball team certainly boasts the strongest current Pitt Athletics program. After winning its third straight ACC championship and earning a top-two national ranking, many thought 2019 could be the year that the squad would take the next step and contend for a national championship. But a heartbreaking home loss to Cincinnati in the second round halted a team that has yet to find significant postseason success.

It’s been 44 years since Pitt won a national championship in any sport, when Dorsett led Pitt football to an undefeated record during his Heisman-winning season. Pitt fans have faith in the volleyball program as the breakers of the drought, although some have the most confidence in head men’s basketball coach Jeff Capel’s rebuilding project to accomplish the feat.

Best venue to watch a sporting event?

The Petersen Events Center, which seats 12,508 at capacity, came up as the most popular venue for a Pitt game. The deafening atmosphere that the Oakland Zoo brings every year has bolstered the Pete’s national reputation.

Heinz Field, which also serves as home turf for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has often been criticized for its role as Pitt football’s home stadium. Many think it is too far away from Oakland, while others think it is too big for Pitt to fill up consistently.

Are you pleased with what Heather Lyke has done so far as Pitt’s athletic director?

Pitt fans appear to be confident in the direction the athletics department is heading. Since Heather Lyke became athletic director in 2017, she hired eight new head coaches, including former Duke basketball assistant Jeff Capel.
She has also led a rebrand of Pitt’s logos and color scheme, introduced women’s lacrosse as a varsity sport, flipped the Petersen Events Center’s media setup to spotlight the Oakland Zoo and unveiled the “Victory Heights” transformation plan that includes a brand-new volleyball stadium.

Do you trust Pat Narduzzi to turn Pitt football into a national contender?

Pat Narduzzi has brought both joy and anger from Pitt fans since his 2015 arrival as Pitt football’s head coach. His passion and motivation shined in stunning upsets over No. 2 Clemson and No. 2 Miami, but his questionable game management at times has sent Pitt Twitter into shambles.

But Pitt fans do seem to have faith in Narduzzi. The anticipation of one of the nation’s top defenses this year, if there’s a season, has the football fanbase excited for the future.

Do you trust Jeff Capel to turn Pitt men’s basketball into a national contender?

The moment Jeff Capel stepped on Pitt’s campus, he’s had very strong support from Panther nation. After suffering through the Kevin Stallings era, Pitt fans celebrated the hire.
Although he’s yet to post a winning record in his first two seasons under the helm, his quick turnaround to pull the program out of the dumpster that Stallings left has garnered him ultimate respect and trust from the fanbase.

Do you think an on-campus stadium is necessary for Pitt football to be a national contender?

Location, location, location. While Pitt students might prefer an on-campus stadium for easy walking access, it does not appear to be a necessity for fans. Many issues make an on-campus football stadium a very difficult task for the near future. Where would it go? What buildings would have to be sacrificed? Where would fans park? Although fans might not love Heinz Field, they will have to accept it for now.

What’s the best road venue that you’ve been to?

Pitt’s rivals in State College have produced quite the environment on game days. The six-figure capacity of Beaver Stadium, dwarfing Heinz Field’s size, is the most popular road venue for respondents. Lane Stadium, where Virginia Tech crushed Pitt football’s coastal division hopes last year, also impressed Panther nation.

Do you think there will be a college football season for 2020-21?

A question we’ve all anxiously pondered, yet feared the possible answers that lie ahead. Although the majority of respondents think fans won’t be allowed at games, the general consensus leans toward the college football season occurring.

Some chose to specify alternative or more specific scenarios, like social distancing enforcements among fans or a season delayed to the spring.