“Pittsburgh raided Charlotte”: Former gamers and alumni have excessive expectations for the ACC championship sport
CHARLOTTE, NC – Troy Washington, a former 1984-88 Pitt Free Safety and senior year captain, hasn’t been to a Pitt football game in about two decades. He was ready to end that streak on Saturday.
“I had many good years at the University of Pittsburgh,” said Washington. “This is probably the first game I’ve been back in 20 years … the way everyone falls from the world couldn’t be a better time.”
Pitt Football is having its most successful season in recent history and has reached the 10 profit threshold for the first time in four decades. There is excitement around the team and an expectation of size that many compare to the legendary teams from Pitt’s heyday in the 1980s.
Pitt alumnus Tony Lupinetti (left) and former Pitt football player Troy Washington (right) pose at the ACC Fan Fest on Saturday afternoon. (Pamela Smith | visual editor)
Washington said a Saturday night ACC Championship Game win against Wake Forest would be a step in the right direction to return to old Pitt football – a style of play he knows firsthand.
“This is a good stepping stone for us to start a new year,” said Washington. “Now we can go back to real Pitt football.”
Charlotte, North Carolina is nearly a seven hour drive from Pitt. But that didn’t stop current Pitt students and alumni from making the trip to see their panthers battle for a conference championship. from camping outside To make the William Pitt Union a long and arduous bus ride in the snow, fans were determined to make the journey.
The Charlotte, North Carolina skyline where the Pitt Panthers face the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the ACC Football Championship game. (Pamela Smith | visual editor)
As the sun set over Charlotte’s Romare Bearden Park, the venue for the ACC Fan Festival, a sea of blue and gold danced to the tune of “Sweet Caroline” with live music and a beer garden. Although the game didn’t start until 8 p.m., that didn’t stop Pitt fans from getting up bright and early to start their day.
While a number of Wake Forest fans were in attendance, Pitt fans dominated the event and neighborhood streets, with the Pitt script emblazoned on almost every shirt. Fans were sure that the Panther believers outnumbered the Wake Forest crowd many times over.
Michael Harris, a senior business major, said he was impressed with the number of Pitt fans who have made the trip.
“Pittsburgh has invaded Charlotte,” said Harris. “Call it the new Pittsburgh. Pitt at 90 [points] – guaranteed, no doubt. “
A young Pitt fan throws a soccer ball to win a prize. (Pamela Smith | visual editor)
Harris also said he was also surprised at the lack of Wake Forest fans.
“I’ve seen a total of six Wake Forest fans in my hour and a half in Charlotte,” said Harris. “They seem like good people, but I haven’t seen many of them.”
Pitt was already at the championship game in 2018 and then came home empty-handed fall the Clemson Tigers 41-10. Redshirt linebacker Phil Campbell III described the feeling as very different this time – Last time the team was just happy to be there. This time it was championship or bankruptcy.
“This is my second time there,” said Campbell. “Last time I felt we were very happy just to be there. This year we are not fulfilled at all. We’re not just happy to be there – we’re trying to win. We know we can and we know we should. “
The fans felt like Campbell – they wanted to see a win.
“I’m looking for a win,” said Rick Lowe, a 1972 alumnus. “We were here a few years ago and it wasn’t nice.”
Lowe enjoys the camaraderie in Charlotte this time around, as he said the Wake Forest fans he interacted with were just nice – unlike his last trip.
“The Clemson fans weren’t very nice,” said Lowe. “Wake Forest fans really have a lot of class. It’s nice to play against someone who is smiling and saying ‘good luck’. “
A Wake Forest fan loses in Jenga during the ACC Fan Festival on Saturday afternoon. (Pamela Smith | visual editor)
For many fans, this is the first time in their life that Pitt has won 10 games in the regular season. To experience such a successful season was a special feeling for some. On the flip side, returning to the national college football stage is a breath of fresh air for those who witnessed Pitt’s national title races in the 1970s.
Nelson Berardinelli, a 1980 alumbus, said he has been a die-hard Pitt fan since 1976 – when the Panthers took the national title.
“In my first year in Pitt we won the national championship,” said Berardinelli. “It was the first college game I ever attended. Obviously, I became a Pitt fan in 1976. A guy called ‘[Tony] Dorsett, “I saw him walking around and was addicted.”
Pitt fans, including former Pitt soccer player Nate Heyward (right), will chat at the ACC Fan Fest on Saturday afternoon. (Pamela Smith | visual editor)
Despite living nearly 500 miles from Queen City in western Pennsylvania, Berardinelli said he refused to give himself the opportunity to hoist another trophy for his beloved panthers almost four decades later.
“We came because we may not know if Pitt will be here for the next 10 years,” said Berardinelli. “I’m not going to miss this opportunity to maybe win a championship.”
Berardinelli isn’t the only one unsure when Pitt will be back in Charlotte to play in an ACC championship. A common opinion from Pitt fans is that with Redshirt senior quarterback Kenny Pickett at the helm of a recent ACC game, this is Pitt’s best chance at lifting the conference championship trophy.
Roc prepares to throw a football to a Pitt fan at the ACC Fan Fest on Saturday afternoon. (Pamela Smith | visual editor)
Pitt fan Mark Shemanski said he hopes to see Pickett in New York for the Heisman ceremony for everything he’s done for the program this year.
“I’ll tell you what, Kenny Pickett is just amazing,” Shemanski said. “I hope he wins the Heisman. I hope you give him a chance. “
Pickett has maintained throughout the season that national recognition pays as much tribute to his teammates as it does him. Shemanski was sure to attribute Pitt’s other nationally acclaimed player – second recipient Jordan Addison.
“And you have Addison and who is going to possibly win the Biletnikoff,” Shemanski said.
Washington said that while confident Pickett will maintain his dominant performance on Saturday night, he also predicted the defense will be stepped up and play like he and his teammates did in the ’80s.
A Pitt fan will be accompanied by an outdoor Connect Four game at the ACC Fan Fest on Saturday afternoon. (Pamela Smith | visual editor)
“We’ll win,” said Washington. “The defense will step up and play for us because Pickett is going to do something – we know that. Pickett will hold his end, now we need the defense that will hold out. “
The game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons kicks off at 8 p.m. and is broadcast nationwide on ABC. Pickett looks forward to putting a show on the fans who made the trip and ending what he and his teammates began – winning an ACC championship.
“Everything we’ve worked for is right in front of us,” Pickett said. “I’m very happy to have another chance in a championship game. I know we all worked hard for it and we are all looking forward to it … we are ready to go. “