Pitt Athletics gets new look and big donation

Panther head on uniform


The big news for Pitt Athletics in the past couple of weeks has taken place off the field.


While Pitt Athletics has completed its rebranding, the rest of the University is still considering updated looks.

The Office of University Communications is looking for input through a survey on marks and colors. See more about it here.

On April 7, an event at Pitt Program Council’s Bigelow Bash introduced new colors, secondary logos, typefaces and fonts for all the University’s teams. Highlighting the changes were a more ferocious Panther, a return to Coach Johnny Majors-era colors of royal blue and gold, and a nod to the Cathedral of Learning in an innovative font.

The reveal also included the opening of the Nike Store in the Pitt Shop on Forbes Avenue, where you can get gear with all the new marks. You also can find new apparel here.

Then on April 12, former Pitt defensive lineman Aaron Donald, now an All-Pro defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams, made a seven-figure financial commitment to the Pitt Football Championship Fund, which is used for facility improvement, recruiting, technology and student-athlete development. Let’s hope he got some new Panther gear in return.

New colors and fonts

It had been rumored for months that Pitt’s teams were going to officially adopt the colors from Pitt’s football glory days in the 1970s. Pitt Athletics has been working on the rebranding with Nike Global Identity Group for two years. The new colors are called a “reinterpretation” of those introduced by Majors to stand out from rival Notre Dame, which also used navy and old gold.

While Pitt Script — created by Majors, used for 24 years and reintroduced in 2016 — continues to be the primary font for athletics, a new Cathedral font is being used for many numbers and letters on team jerseys. According to the Pitt ID Manual, the Cathedral font “takes inspiration from the parallel lines and pointed arches found in the Gothic architecture of the iconic Cathedral of Learning: the epicenter of the Pitt campus.”

The pointed and curved arch can be seen in several numbers.

“I love how our new uniforms work to blend Pitt’s historic past with our present and future,” Pat Narduzzi, Pitt’s head football coach, said in a statement. “We want our players to respect tradition but be inspired to make their own history at Pitt. It is an exciting look that I think will energize our players and fans alike. Our partners at Nike did a tremendous job capturing the essence of the Pitt Panthers in these new branding initiatives.”

The mighty Panther


Pitt’s panther logo has gone through several changes since it was adopted in 1909, from full-body images to more cartoonish ones.

The new version takes it back to its roots as “the most formidable creature once indigenous to the Pittsburgh region,” according to the ID manual. The Panther Head logo with mouth opened for attack takes its cues from statues around campus, particularly the panther fountain at the front entrance of the Cathedral of Learning.

A little historical sidenote: We all know and love Roc the Panther, the costumed mascot who everyone wants to get a picture with. But did you know that in 1967, the Beaver County Pitt Club donated a live, baby panther for the University to use as the official mascot? The name chosen by a contest in the student paper was Bagheera, after the panther in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.”

Here’s a look at some of the Pitt Panthers through the years:

A little numbers controversy

At the reveal on April 7 of Pitt’s new branding marks, football players helmets held a small “412” above the visor.

On April 12 (“412 Day”), Pitt player Damar Hamlin tweeted that Shop412, a local purveyor of Pittsburgh-related gear, made the team remove the area code from the helmets. The business tweeted back that, “We are and have been working with Pitt on a deal for authentic 412 x Pitt.”

A spokesman for Pitt Athletics said they had no comment on the matter at this time.

A loyal donor

Aaron Donald’s donation to Pitt is historic on two levels. At 27, he is the youngest seven-figure donor in Pitt history, and it is the largest donation ever by a Pitt football letterman.

Donald was an All-State Class AAAA player at Penn Hills High School before coming to Pitt in 2010. As a senior in 2013, Donald led the nation with 28.5 tackles for loss. He was named a unanimous first team All-American and the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award.

He was selected in 13th in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Rams and has been named to Pro Bowl in each season since. Last year, he became the highest paid defensive player in NFL history with a six-year, $135 million contract extension.

In honor of his gift, the ground floor of Pitt’s Duratz Athletic Complex practice facility, where Donald still trains during the NFL offseason, will be renamed the “Aaron Donald Football Performance Center.”

“The wonderful thing about Aaron is how he shares his success with others,” Pitt Athletic Director Heather Lyke said in a news release. “Even while playing for the Los Angeles Rams, he remains passionately invested in both Pitt and Pittsburgh. The work he puts in daily at Pitt shows our student-athletes the commitment necessary to succeed at the next level.”

“It was a dream come true to play for the University of Pittsburgh,” Donald said in a news release. “My experience as a Panther is something that influences my life every day and I want to pay that forward. I believe in what Coach Narduzzi is building at Pitt and this was an opportunity for me to make a difference for our current and future players. Pitt will always be my school and I’m honored to be able to support the Blue and Gold.”

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 412-648-4294.