The ACC officially expands to 14 football teams today, bringing in Pittsburgh and Syracuse as full-time members. Commissioner John Swofford and representatives from all 14 schools (and Notre Dame) will be in New York City this afternoon for ceremonies to officially welcome the schools to the league.
The conference is streaming a press conference later today, so it will be interesting to see what Swofford has to say (and we’ll see if doing this in New York has any significance other than the league wanting to stake claim to the city now that the Big East as we knew it is on the way out).
In honor of the occasion, here’s quick overview to help you familiarize yourself with Pitt and Syracuse’s football history. Sorry, Notre Dame. No full-time membership, no football overview.
– Home field: Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, since 2001
– First season: 1890
– All-time record: 683-497-42 , tied for 19th winningest program in major college football history (VT is 16th at 697-440-46)
– National titles: 9 claimed, 2 recognized by Associated Press or coaches poll (1937, 1976)
– Conference titles: 2 Big East (2004, ’10)
– Heisman winners: 1 (RB Tony Dorsett in 1976)
– National award winners: Dorsett (Heisman, Maxwell, Walter Camp), DE Hugh Green (Lombardi, Walter Camp), OT Mark May (Outland), WR Larry Fitzgerald (Biletnikoff, Walter Camp), WR Antonio Bryant (Biletnikoff)
– Other notable alums: RB Marshall Goldberg, TE Mike Ditka, LB Joe Schmidt, QB Dan Marino, OT Bill Fralic, OL Russ Grimm, LB Rickey Jackson, DE Chris Doleman, RB Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, OG Ruben Brown, RB Curtis Martin
– Best player: If you want to credit Marino for his NFL success, go ahead, but Dorsett, from nearby Aliquippa, Pa., was a three-time All-American, ran for a then-NCAA record 6,082 yards, won numerous player of the year trophies (including the Heisman) and led the team to the national championship his senior year. That pretty well covers everything.
– Best team: With Dorsett running for 1,948 yards and winning the Heisman Trophy and Johnny Majors on the sideline, the Panthers ran off a perfect 12-0 record in 1976 to finish No. 1 in both the AP and coaches polls. Pitt opened the season with a 31-10 win at Notre Dame and closed it with a 27-3 Sugar Bowl victory against No. 2 Georgia. Amazingly, Dorsett was the only pick from the team in the first six rounds on the following spring’s draft.
– Famous coaches: Glenn “Pop” Warner (early football pioneer won three national titles at Pitt in 1915, ’16 and ’18), Jock Sutherland (Pitt claimed national titles under his watch in 1929, ’31, ’34, ’36 and ’37), Majors (won school’s only unanimous national championship in 1976 but left the following year; coached Panthers in two stints, going 45-45-1 in eight years), Jackie Sherrill (went 50-9-1 in five years, registering three one-loss seasons from 1979-81 with Marino under center)
– What have you done for me lately: Pitt earned a share of the Big East title in 2004 and ’10, although those teams had four and five losses, respectively (and coaches Walt Harris and Dave Wannstedt weren’t on the sidelines much longer despite that accomplishment). The Panthers are 101-83 in the BCS era, finishing better than .500 in only eight of those 15 seasons and peaking with a 10-3 record in 2009. They’ve been stuck in BBVA Compass Bowl purgatory lately, going to Birmingham to conclude each of the last three seasons. With Paul Chryst entering his second season with the program, there’s hope that the Panthers have finally emerged from the coaching carousel that’s plagued their program the last few years.
– Series with Virginia Tech: Hokies lead 7-5, but Panthers have won four straight dating back to 2001, knocking off a higher ranked Virginia Tech team in each instance.
– Best tradition: After Pittsburgh football wins, the upper section of the Cathedral of Learning is illuminated gold with “victory lights.”
– Little known fact: With eight players inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Pitt ranks third among all colleges, trailing only Southern California (11) and Notre Dame (10) and tied with Ohio State (8) and Michigan (8).
– Home field: Carrier Dome since 1980 (ironically, it has no air conditioning)
– First season: 1889
– All-time record: 699-496-49, 15th winningest program in major college football history (VT is 16th at 697-440-46)
– National titles: 1 claimed, 1 recognized by the AP, coaches (1959)
– Heisman winners: 1 (RB Ernie Davis in 1961)
– National award winners: QB Don McPherson (Davey O’Brien, Maxwell)
– Conference titles: 5 Big East (1996, 1997, 1998, 2004, 2012)
– Other notable alums: RB Jim Brown, G Roger Davis, RB Floyd Little, TE John Mackey, FB Larry Csonka, DT Timothy Green, NG Theodore Gregory, C John Flannery, QB Donovan McNabb, DE Dwight Freeney
– Best player: Brown’s NFL career has made him a household name, something that, sadly, Davis never had the chance to become after being diagnosed with leukemia and dying at the far-too-young age of 23. But Davis remains the school’s only Heisman winner — the first black winner of the trophy at that — and led the school to its only national championship. Neither Davis nor Brown are at the top of the Orange’s all-time rushing list (that designation belongs to backs in a more modern, offensive-friendly era of football), but Davis’ 6.63 yards per carry average still ranks first in school history, followed by Brown at 5.79. Davis also broke Brown’s SU career rushing record when he was there.
– Best team: It’s hard to argue with a national championship winner once again. Unranked to start the year in 1959, Syracuse ran off 11 straight victories, culminating in a 23-14 win against Texas in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas to earn the consensus national championship. The offense averaged 451 yards per game, and the defense allowed an astounding 193 total rushing yards in 10 regular season games.
– Throwback helmet they should wear all the time: The “S” is a somewhat new feature on the helmet, having been on there only since 2007. The numbers Syracuse used to wear in the ’60s and early ’70s, though, is a much more classic look, in my opinion.
– Famous coaches: Ben Schwartzwalder (the bespectacled, crew-cut-wearing coach went 153-91-3 in 25 years at Syracuse from 1949-73, winning the school’s only national title), Dick MacPherson (his NFL coaching career with the Patriots wasn’t anything special, but he guided the Orangemen to an 11-0-1 record in 1987), Paul Pasqualoni (certainly appreciated more in hindsight, he went 107-59-1 in 14 years, winning four Big East titles)
– What have you done for me lately: Until just recently, not a whole heck of a lot. Syracuse fell on hard times near the end of the Pasqualoni era, the bottomed out under Greg Robinson, who was 10-37 in four years from 2005-08. Little known Doug Marrone brought the program back from irrelevance, twice finishing 8-5 and going to the Pinstripe Bowl, with a share of the Big East title last year thanks to quarterback Ryan Nassib. Marrone parlayed that success into the head job with the Buffalo Bills, though, and first-time head coach Scott Shafer, the Orange’s defensive coordinator, is taking over. Syracuse is just 82-99 in the BCS era, with two winning seasons since 2001.
– Series with Virginia Tech: Orange leads 9-8, with a win in probably the most memorable game in the series’ history, a 50-42 triple overtime thriller at the Carrier Dome in 2002, when the Hokies were ranked No. 8 in the country. Tech owns the most lopsided result, however, a 62-0 thrashing of the No. 16 Orangemen at Lane Stadium in 1999.
– Best tradition: Anything to do with anthropomorphic orange mascot and frequent SportsCenter commercial punching bag Otto the Orange.
– Little known fact: Syracuse officially retired number 44 in 2005. It’s been worn by three All-America running backs — Brown, Davis and Little — and is so synonymous with the school that the university zip code was changed several years ago from 13210 to 13244.
Here’s a breakdown, tale-of-the-tape style:
– Home field: Heinz Field lacks a college charm. The Dome is something unique to see. Advantage: Syracuse.
– All-time record: Wins are pretty easy to calculate. Advantage: Syracuse.
– National titles: We’re only going with recognized nattys, not claimed. Still, advantage: Pitt.
– Heisman winners: 1-1. Advantage: push.
– National award winners: Pitt’s got a laundry list of winners. Syracuse has Don McPherson. Advantage: Pitt.
– Conference titles: 5-2 ‘Cuse. Plus, Pitt’s are shared titles, so they barely count. Advantage: Syracuse.
– Notable alums: Dorsett, Marino, Fitzgerald vs. Brown, Davis, McNabb? Early edge ‘Cuse, recent edge Pitt. Advantage: push.
– Best player: Davis was good, but Dorsett left college as the Division I rushing leader. Advantage: Pitt.
– Best team: Unbeaten vs. unbeaten? National champ vs. national champ? We’ll call it even. Advantage: push.
– Throwback helmet they should wear all the time: I’m a sucker for ’80s-themed throwbacks. Give me mustard yellow all day. Advantage: Pitt.
– Famous coaches: The Panthers have Pop Warner. Is there any level of football called Schwartzwalder? Nope. Advantage: Pitt.
– What have you done for me lately: Pitt’s been pretty mediocre lately, but Syracuse, until the last three years, has been downright bad. Still, the Orange seem to be turning a corner, and the Panthers might have some stability under Chryst. Advantage: push.
– Players currently in NFL camps: Numbers game, plain and simple. Advantage: Pitt.
– Series with Virginia Tech: ‘Cuse has a better record, but Pitt is a thorn in Tech’s side lately. Advantage: push.
– Best tradition: The lights are kind of cool, but anthropomorphic orange mascots don’t come along often. Advantage: Syracuse.
Final score: [edit: tallied one incorrectly for Pitt earlier] Pitt wins 6-4-5. The Panthers are already 1-0 in ACC play.