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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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An attendee speaks during the “Be a Good Neighbor” Town Hall in the William Pitt Union on Thursday evening.
Panel discusses renters’ rights, red flags to look out for
By Marissa Kelley, Staff Writer • 12:08 am

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An attendee speaks during the “Be a Good Neighbor” Town Hall in the William Pitt Union on Thursday evening.
Panel discusses renters’ rights, red flags to look out for
By Marissa Kelley, Staff Writer • 12:08 am

Column | The Oakland Zoo is the best student section in all of college basketball

Pitt+band+members+celebrate+during+Pitt+men%E2%80%99s+basketball%E2%80%99s+game+against+Boston+College+on+Tuesday%2C+Feb.+15.
Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
Pitt band members celebrate during Pitt men’s basketball’s game against Boston College on Tuesday, Feb. 15.

Believe it or not, I’ve only sat in the Oakland Zoo once in my time at Pitt. It was in 2022, when Pitt men’s basketball faced off against Duke during former Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last game in Pittsburgh.

While my experience with the Oakland Zoo is limited, my one game in the section is something I’ll never forget. The intimate environment of the Zoo and close proximity to the court made me feel like I was actually playing in the game. As I walked through the bright yellow hallway that leads to the section, I felt like I was running out onto the court, ready to take on the Blue Devils myself. Then, when the lights went dim, and the announcers began introducing the players, I felt like they were about to call my name next. 

Following the game, I knew I was hooked, craving to get back in the Zoo next season. But life got in the way. School got hard, and my commitment to The Pitt News deepened, making it difficult to get to games as a fan. 

Still, my love for the Oakland Zoo is strong. Call me biased, but I believe that the Oakland Zoo is the best student section in college basketball. 

But I’m not alone in my love for the Zoo. The Oakland Zoo is consistently ranked as one of the best student sections by fans and media alike. Just last year, Big Game Boomer — a popular fan account on X that boasts nearly 100k followers — ranked the Zoo as the best student section in the ACC. The Zoo beat out some notoriously famous student sections, such as Duke’s “Cameron Crazies” and Wake Forest’s “Screamin’ Deacons.”

The Oakland Zoo is special because of the energy it brings to Pitt basketball. It’s not called the “Zoo” for nothing, as the students who frequent the section go all out in support of the Panthers. From tossing ripped-up newspapers in the air to decking themselves out in all-gold attire, members of the Oakland Zoo spare no effort to cheer on Pitt basketball. 

The Oakland Zoo’s passion for Pitt basketball was on full display last season, when the men’s team broke out onto the national scene and won two games in the NCAA Tournament. In an incredibly tight game against No. 20 Miami, the Oakland Zoo brought immense energy to the Panthers as they tried to upset the Hurricanes. Miami ultimately had an opportunity to tie the game with seconds to spare, but the energy in the Petersen Events Center was just too much for the Hurricanes to handle. A Hurricanes player missed the final game-tying shot, which caused the Zoo to erupt and allowed Pitt to walk away with a 71-68 victory.

Then, in the Panthers’ First Four matchup against Mississippi State, the Oakland Zoo showed out in droves, packing University of Dayton Arena to near capacity. While the game was played at a neutral site, the Panthers still had a near home-court advantage as blue and gold filled the stands in Dayton. Pitt squeaked out a 60-59 win over the Bulldogs in a gritty, high-energy game with its entire fanbase behind it.

While the Oakland Zoo is currently one of the best student sections in college basketball, there was a time when it was even better. Making its debut in 2001, the Oakland Zoo quickly garnered attention as one of the best in the sport.

The Zoo reached its prime in the late 2000s. With Pitt men’s basketball reaching new heights as a program in the Jamie Dixon era, the Oakland Zoo exploded, becoming the pinnacle of student sections across the country. The section was even wilder than it is today, as students viciously mocked opposing players and dressed up in animal costumes to fit the zoo theme. 

But following the departure of former head coach Jamie Dixon, Pitt men’s basketball and the Oakland Zoo underwent a dark period. With the team failing to earn an NCAA Tournament bid for seven years, the excitement around Pitt men’s basketball quickly dried up. 

The Oakland Zoo stayed afloat during Pitt’s period of failure, trying to drum up support for the struggling program. But that all changed last year. Finally, the best student section in college basketball has a quality team to root for. 

The real reason the Oakland Zoo is the best student section in all of college basketball isn’t its size or its pregame rituals. What makes the Zoo truly special is its reliability and passion for its team. No other student section can go through seven years of watching a struggling program and then come back stronger than ever. 

No matter how Pitt men’s and women’s basketball fare this season, the Oakland Zoo will still pack into the Petersen Events Center and cheer on the Panthers like it has done for the past 22 years.

About the Contributor
Brian Sherry, Sports Editor