|1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football|
Sugar Bowl Champions
|Sugar Bowl, Win, 27-3, Georgia Bulldogs|
|Head coach||Johnny Majors (4th year)|
|Offensive coordinator||Joe Avezzano (1st year)|
|Defensive coordinator||Bobby Roper (1st year)|
|Base defense||Basic 50|
|Home stadium||Pitt Stadium|
The 1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football team represented the University of Pittsburgh in the 1976 college football season and is recognized as that season's consensus National Champions. Pitt was also awarded the Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy as the best Division I team in the East.
|Sat. Sep. 11||4:20 p.m.||at #11 Notre Dame||#9||Notre Dame Stadium • South Bend, IN||W 31-10||59,075|
|Sat. Sep. 18||7:30 p.m.||at Georgia Tech||#3||Grant Field • Atlanta, GA||W 42-14||43,424|
|Sat. Sep. 25||1:30 p.m.||Temple||#3||Pitt Stadium • Pittsburgh, PA||W 21-7||38,500|
|Sat. Oct. 2||1:30 p.m.||at Duke||#2||Wallace Wade Stadium • Durham, NC||W 44-31||37,200|
|Sat. Oct. 9||1:30 p.m.||Louisville||#2||Pitt Stadium • Pittsburgh, PA||W 27-6||34,000|
|Sat. Oct. 16||1:30 p.m.||Miami (FL)||#2||Pitt Stadium • Pittsburgh, PA||W 36-19||42,434|
|Sat. Oct. 23||2:00 p.m.||at Navy||#2||Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium • Annapolis, MD||W 45-0||26,346|
|Sat. Oct. 30||1:30 p.m.||Syracuse||#2||Pitt Stadium • Pittsburgh, PA||W 23-13||50,399|
|Sat. Nov. 6†||1:30 p.m.||Army||#2||Pitt Stadium • Pittsburgh, PA||W 37-7||45,753|
|Sat. Nov. 13||1:30 p.m.||West Virginia||#1||Pitt Stadium • Pittsburgh, PA (Backyard Brawl)||W 24-16||56,500|
|Fri. Nov. 26||9:00 p.m.||Penn State||#1||Three Rivers Stadium • Pittsburgh, PA||W 24-7||50,250|
|Sat. Jan. 1||vs. #5 Georgia||#1||Louisiana Superdome • New Orleans, LA (Sugar Bowl)||ABC||W 27-3||76,117|
|*Non-Conference Game. †Homecoming. #Rankings from AP Poll released prior to game. All times are in Eastern Time.|
The previous season, 1975, saw Pitt win the Sun Bowl over Kansas to cap an 8-4 record highlighted by wins at Georgia and Notre Dame. The stage was thus set in 1976, with Pitt ranked 9th in the AP preseason poll, for the Panthers to make a run for the National Championship.
In the first game of the 1976 season, the Panthers faced off against Notre Dame in South Bend, IN. A year earlier, Tony Dorsett had finished with 303 yards rushing in Pitt's 34-20 victory over the Irish. "They even grew the grass high" said Carmen DeArdo, a diehard Pitt alumnus, "and everyone knew Tony would get the ball." "They didn't let that grass grow long enough," Dorsett said later. He darted 61 yards on his first run of the season and tacked on 120 more by the end of the 31-10 Pitt win.
The season continued with a 42-14 win at Georgia Tech and a 36-19 win over Miami. On October 23, the Panthers travelled to Annapolis to face Navy during which Dorsett broke the NCAA career rushing record on a 32-yard touchdown run in Pitt's 45-0 victory. Dorsett's achievement prompted a mid-game celebration in which even Navy saluted the feat with a cannon blast. Pitt won a tough, hard-fought battle against rival Syracuse.
On November 6, the number two ranked Panthers hosted Army at Pitt Stadium and won handily, but the significant action was taking place several hundred miles west, in West Lafayette, Indiana, where the Purdue Boilermakers held off the number one ranked Michigan Wolverines, 16-14, in the closing seconds. The Pitt Stadium crowd erupted in celebration when the stadium public address announcer dramatically gave the final score from Purdue. For the first time in the modern era, Panther fans could legitimately claim, "We're number one!" Pitt defended its ranking in a close Backyard Brawl against West Virginia to go 10-0 heading into the regular season finale against instate rival Penn State.
At a packed Three Rivers Stadium on the day after Thanksgiving, the Nittany Lions held Dorsett to 51 yards in the first half and had the game tied 7-7. Majors adjusted for the second half by shifting Dorsett from tailback to fullback, enabling him to explode for an additional 173 yards as Pitt rolled to a 24-7 victory that capped an undefeated regular season.
In December, Dorsett became the first Pitt Panther to win the Heisman Trophy as the nation's best college football player. Dorsett also won the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, and was named UPI Player of the Year. He led the nation in rushing with 1,948 yards and was selected as an All-American. Dorsett finished his college career with 6,082 total rushing yards, then an NCAA record for career rushing.
The 11-0 Panthers accepted an invitation to the 1977 Sugar Bowl to face second ranked Georgia. Pitt defeated the Bulldogs 27-3 and was voted number one by both the Associated Press and Coaches polls, claiming their ninth national championship. This was Pitt's first undefeated national championship since 1937. The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) named Majors the 1976 Coach of the Year. Following this historic season, Majors returned to his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, to take the head coaching job.
Team players drafted into in the NFL
|Tony Dorsett||Running Back||1||2||Dallas Cowboys|
|Larry Swider||Punter||7||185||Denver Broncos|
|Jim Corbett||Tight End||7||194||Cincinnati Bengals|
|Al Romano||Defensive Lineman||11||289||Houston Oilers|
|Carson Long||Kicker||11||302||Los Angeles Rams|
|Don Parrish||Defensive End||12||314||Atlanta Falcons|
Awards and honors
- Tony Dorsett, Heisman Trophy 
- Tony Dorsett, Walter Camp Award
- Tony Dorsett, Maxwell Award
- Tony Dorsett, led the nation in rushing with 1,948 yards
- Tony Dorsett, All-America selection
- Official 2009 NCAA Division I Football Records Book. Indianapolis, IN: The National Collegiate Athletic Association. 2009–08. pp. 85. http://web1.ncaa.org/web_files/stats/football_records/DI/2009/2009FBS.pdf. Retrieved 2009–10–16.
- "CNNSI.com - College Football - Heisman Heroes - Suzuki presents Heisman Heroes: Tony Dorsett - Friday August 25, 2000 01:29 PM". CNN. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/college/heisman/2000/dorsett_0825/.
- Gorman, Kevin (2008-10-30). "Pitt-Notre Dame series produces phenomenal performances". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/college/s_595857.html. Retrieved 2010-04-29.
- Associated Press (1976-10-24). "Tony Dorsett No. 1". Reading Eagle: p. 77. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=HSIuAAAAIBAJ&sjid=-6AFAAAAIBAJ&pg=5841%2C2098068. Retrieved 2010-05-01.
- Mackin, Mike (2008-06-12). "Let's Learn From the Past: The 1976 Pitt Panthers". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA). http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08164/889136-13.stm. Retrieved 2010-04-29.
- "Yearly National Championship Selections: 1976 National Championships". College Football Data Warehouse. http://www.cfbdatawarehouse.com/data/national_championships/yearly_results.php?year=1976. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
- Fitzgerald, Francis J., ed. (1996). The Year the Panthers Roared. Louisville, KY: AdCraft Sports. ISBN 1-887761-06-3.
- "1976 - 42nd Award Tony Dorsett Pittsburgh Back". HeismanTrophy.com. http://www.heisman.com/winners/t-dorsett76.php. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
- The Year the Panthers Roared. Francis J. Fitzgerald, ed., Louisville, KY, AdCraft Sports, 1996, ISBN 1-887761-06-3
- 1976 team where are they now?
- Pitt Magazine article
- 1976 Pitt at Notre Dame complete game video on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
- 1977 Sugar Bowl, Pitt vs Georgia for the National Championship, first half video on YouTube: Part 1