American Football Database
1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football
National Champions
Eastern Champions
Sugar Bowl Champions
Sugar Bowl, Win, 27-3, Georgia Bulldogs
Conference Independent
Coaches #1
AP #1
1976 record 12-0
Head coach Johnny Majors (4th year)
Offensive coordinator Joe Avezzano (1st year)
Offensive scheme Veer
Defensive coordinator Bobby Roper (1st year)
Base defense Basic 50
Home stadium Pitt Stadium
(Capacity: 56,500)
« 1975 1977 »

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.[1] Pitt was also awarded the Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy as the best Division I team in the East.


Date Time Opponent# Rank# Site TV Result Attendance
Sat. Sep. 11 4:20 p.m. at #11 Notre Dame #9 Notre Dame StadiumSouth Bend, IN W 31-10   59,075
Sat. Sep. 18 7:30 p.m. at Georgia Tech #3 Grant FieldAtlanta, GA W 42-14   43,424
Sat. Sep. 25 1:30 p.m. Temple #3 Pitt StadiumPittsburgh, PA W 21-7   38,500
Sat. Oct. 2 1:30 p.m. at Duke #2 Wallace Wade StadiumDurham, 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 StadiumAnnapolis, 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 SuperdomeNew 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.


Regular season

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.[3][4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]


Kiosk in the Great Hall at Heinz Field celebrating Pitt's 1976 National Championship

Team players drafted into in the NFL

Player Position Round Pick NFL Club
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 [10]
  • Tony Dorsett, Walter Camp Award[11]
  • Tony Dorsett, Maxwell Award
  • Tony Dorsett, led the nation in rushing with 1,948 yards
  • Tony Dorsett, All-America selection


  1. Official 2009 NCAA Division I Football Records Book. Indianapolis, IN: The National Collegiate Athletic Association. 2009–08. pp. 85. Retrieved 2009–10–16.
  3. " - College Football - Heisman Heroes - Suzuki presents Heisman Heroes: Tony Dorsett - Friday August 25, 2000 01:29 PM". CNN.
  4. Gorman, Kevin (2008-10-30). "Pitt-Notre Dame series produces phenomenal performances". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 2010-04-29.
  5. Associated Press (1976-10-24). "Tony Dorsett No. 1". Reading Eagle: p. 77. Retrieved 2010-05-01.
  6. Mackin, Mike (2008-06-12). "Let's Learn From the Past: The 1976 Pitt Panthers". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA). Retrieved 2010-04-29.
  7. "Yearly National Championship Selections: 1976 National Championships". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
  8. Fitzgerald, Francis J., ed. (1996). The Year the Panthers Roared. Louisville, KY: AdCraft Sports. ISBN 1-887761-06-3.
  10. "1976 - 42nd Award Tony Dorsett Pittsburgh Back". Retrieved 2011-06-06.

Further information

External links


  • 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