Column | Pitt football doesn’t need to change its uniforms


Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor

Pitt players line up during the Blue vs. Gold spring football game in April.

By Dalton Coppola, Sports Editor

Pitt football will kick off against West Virginia in less than three months. The two teams will renew the century-long rivalry when the Mountaineers fly up — or more likely, drive up — to Pittsburgh for the battle on Sept. 1. 

When the foes meet, West Virginia will don a new set of uniforms, which the team revealed on Monday. The jerseys pay homage to the state of West Virginia, with details such as the road maps of the “Country Roads” as well as the state border emblazoned on the pant leg, collar and helmet.

The announcement came on the state’s 159th birthday, as a sort of gift to the state that fostered half of the Backyard Brawl Rivalry. While the state-inspired jerseys are fine for the Mountaineers, Pitt shouldn’t follow suit.

Pitt debuted a city-inspired jersey in 2020 in a contest with Louisville. While the threads certainly paid a touching tribute to a city in need of a boost during a global pandemic, there’s a reason the jerseys fell out of Pitt’s rotation.

The jerseys were gray with gold accents, similar to Pittsburgh’s professional teams, and featured small details to honor the city such as an “H2P” in the same design as US Steel’s logo. It was fun for one game, but the novelty quickly wore off the second time around when Pitt lost to Notre Dame at home 45-3.

The issue was that the jerseys didn’t look like they belonged to Pitt. Former quarterback Kenny Pickett even voiced discontent with the alternate jersey set on Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” podcast

“We have Steel City uniforms that I’m not a huge fan of,” Pickett said. “It’s just not us.”

He said what made Pitt special is its iconic colors.

“No one [else] has these colors,” Pickett said. “When you turn the TV on and you see these colors, you know that’s Pitt. I think that’s something pretty special.”

He’s exactly right.

Pitt has one of the most iconic branding packages in all of college sports. The Pitt-script logo and blue and gold jerseys are iconic. Back when the Panthers flourished on the field in the days of Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino, they were wearing that blue and gold. Pitt strayed from tradition at one point, wearing navy blue and a mustard yellow during the early 2000s until athletic director Heather Lyke put the entire department through a rebrand.

The rebrand aimed to “respect the past” and “represent the future,” the athletic department said on Twitter. Pitt went back to its iconic royal blue and gold uniforms, and immediately brought back one of the best football jerseys in the country. While still respecting the retro jerseys Marino and Dorsett wore, Pitt incorporated several details to honor its campus, such as the Cathedral font.

Moving away from the royal and gold for a couple of decades was a misstep, but Lyke rectified it in 2019. Trying to do too much and make more uniforms for the sake of saying Pitt has an alternate jersey is a mistake.

Pitt can mix and match the sets the Panthers wear now. In fact, introducing an all-white uniform set to the rotation is an idea that would keep fans engaged while also sticking to tradition.

But when it’s all said and done, people associate Pitt with the script and blue and gold color scheme. Pitt has also done a good job of keeping things fresh through modernizing the tradition with the new Cathedral font and introducing the “Panther head” logo.

Pitt football boasts some of the best uniforms in football and there’s no reason to stray from them. Sure, the color scheme goes against the grain when it comes to the other teams in the city. But the blue and gold is what Pitt is all about — embrace it.

Pitt is a part of the city, and its current uniforms pay homage to the city as is.

Pitt should proudly wear the blue and gold with the script on the helmet. The best way to honor Pittsburgh’s history is to maintain tradition. 

The Mountaineers will wear their new jerseys against the Panthers on Sept. 1 as the two teams renew the Backyard Brawl rivalry after a 12-year hiatus.