The final game at Pitt Stadium still hasn’t ended. In fact it never will.
With nine seconds left and Pitt leading the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 37-27, Pitt fans rushed the field and refused to leave. It’s almost fitting that one of the most historic stages in college football will continue to live on forever.
As a fan in attendance that night, I can speak with confidence about the atmosphere that night — Nov. 13, 1999. The stadium was packed with over 60,000 fans as the 8th largest crowd for a football game in school history.
Sure, neither Pitt nor Notre Dame were having championship caliber seasons like both programs had become famous for. However, both teams were fighting to go down in history as the last team to win at the fabled stadium in Oakland.
In fitting fashion, Pitt won, sending Pitt Stadium off in victorious fashion. Although with nine seconds left to play, the game will live on forever.
It was the final walk up Cardiac Hill. It was the final time fans mazed through the inners of the old barn, through the dark corridors and piles of dirt, to find their seats.
It was likely the final football game Pitt will ever play in their own stadium, on their own campus.
So many memories for so many alums, fans and players came to mind that night. The arena that housed the playing days of Dan Marino, Tony Dorsett, Bill Fralic and Hugh Green all came crashing down, reduced to just rubble, to build a sparkling new basketball arena for the Pitt basketball team.
The University of Pittsburgh’s performance on the field hasn’t been championship caliber in recent years. Don’t let that cloud your view on how successful and historic the program actually is. Pitt football is among the greatest programs of all time.
To get an idea of the history that occurred while playing at Pitt Stadium, here are some fast facts from the program’s history while playing there:
- The program lays claim to 9 national championship winning teams (1915, 1916, 1918, 1929, 1931, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1976). 6 of those came while the team played at Pitt Stadium.
- The Panthers had 2 undefeated seasons while playing at Pitt Stadium: 9-0-1 (1937), 12-0 (1976).
- 12 Eastern Conference Championships: 1925, 1927, 1929, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1955, 1976, 1979 & 1980.
- Pitt was ranked No. 1 in the nation 20 different times.
- A Lombardi Award winner: Hugh Green (1980)
- Two Walter Camp Coaches of the Year: Johnny Majors (1973) and Jackie Sherrill (1981).
- Two Maxwell Award Winners: Tony Dorsett (1976) and Hugh Green (1980).
- An Outland Trophy Winner: Mark May (1980).
- Two Walter Camp Award winners: Tony Dorsett (1976) and Hugh Green (1980).
- One Heisman Trophy Award winner: Tony Dorsett (1976), and 12 Heisman finalists.
- 18 members of the College Football Hall of Fame played at Pitt Stadium.
- 82 NCAA First-Team All-Americans played there as well.
- Over 250 players played at Pitt Stadium and went on to play in the National Football League. Four of them — Joe Schmidt, Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino — were inducted in to the Pro-Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
It was a storied venue to watch a football game from 1924-1999.
To many, the end of Pitt Stadium was frowned upon. The Panthers played for a year at Three Rivers Stadium and then moved to Heinz Field, where they currently play all home games.
The energy and atmosphere of college football in Pittsburgh hasn’t been the same and likely never will. There’s nowhere to build a stadium in Oakland anymore and with the new facilities for the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins, the funding won’t be there for a long time anyway.
Those that got to watch a game in the stadium were lucky. For those that attended the final game, it was an honor.
With 9 seconds left, the students rushed the field and tore down the goal posts. Some of the turf was ripped apart by fans trying to take a piece of the stadium home. Many had the same idea.
On the way out of Pitt Stadium, many were seen carrying whole bleachers, trash cans … anything they could get their hands on to keep a piece of the stadium forever.
Forever, along with the final game there.
*Thanks to reader Eric S. for the edit
Chris | PPT