a crowd of Pitt fans
Features & Articles

A beginner’s guide to becoming a Pitt fan

  • Our City/Our Campus
  • Athletics

You probably know Pitt's mascot is the Roc the Panther, but what else do you know about athletics at Pitt? Whether you’re a new student, a proud Pitt parent or anything in between, this guide is the place to start to develop your new Panther fandom.

Hail to Pitt and #H2P

Chances are you’ve probably heard your fair share of Hail to Pitts and H2Ps already. The phrase originates from the University fight song, “Hail to Pitt.” Its lyrics were written by George M. Kirk with music by Lester Milton Taylor, who graduated in 1913 and 1912, respectively.

The tune has become Pitt’s favored fight song as well as a slogan and rallying cry for athletics teams and the University as a whole. 

Learn the lyrics to “Hail to Pitt” and other school songs from Pitt Band.

Victory Lights

If you’re ever unsure if Pitt football won or lost on game day, the Cathedral of Learning will tell you. The Cathedral is bathed in gold lights following Pitt football and other athletics wins, major University successes and other special events. In 2018, alumnus and longtime Pitt football supporter Chris Bickell (A&S ’97) funded an upgrade — a new blue beam of light on top of the gold.

The first non-football Victory Lights display was in March 2003, when the men’s basketball team won its first Big East championship.

Oakland Zoo and the Panther Pitt

Pitt traditions expand beyond football: The Oakland Zoo is the name of Pitt’s student section at both men’s and women’s basketball games in the Petersen Events Center. The Zoo cheers from the bottom ring of the stands and is located around the teams’ benches and along the baseline of the court. The Zoo hosts about 1,500 students, who typically wear gold T-shirts marked with the Zoo logo. Consistently sold out and full of rambunctious Panther fans, the Oakland Zoo is widely considered one of the most dedicated student sections in the NCAA.

Before the game, the Zoo distributes four-page newspapers with details about Pitt players and their opponents. When Pitt scores its first point of the game, the Zoo throws the discarded and ripped-up papers into the air to create a shower of confetti. Ticket information for the upcoming season is coming soon.

Meanwhile, the Panther Pitt is the name for Pitt’s student section in Acrisure Stadium during football games. Students often also wear matching Panther Pitt T-shirts, much like its basketball counterpart, in sections 116 through 127, which stretch the entirety of the lower north end zone. Buy student football tickets at the Pitt Athletics site.

‘Sweet Caroline’

Speaking of the Panther Pitt, a football game isn't complete without a rendition of “Sweet Caroline.” At the end of the 3rd quarter, Pitt fans throughout the stadium stand and link their arms together, joining in song. The Pitt faithful all sing to Neil Diamond’s 1969 hit and belt “Let’s Go Pitt!” over the instrumental, as well as replacing the lyrics “So good” with “Go Pitt!”

The tradition began in 2008, inspired by Justin Acierno, who was director of marketing and ticket operations in Pitt Athletics at the time. He also served as assistant athletic director until 2017.  

“When [“Sweet Caroline”] plays, say, on a jukebox, students will sing, older demographics know the song well and it still resonates with all generations,” he told The Pitt News in 2014.

Annual Bonfire and Pep Rally

Pitt annually holds a Bonfire and Pep Rally before the first Panthers football game. The event is hosted by the Pitt Program Council — a group you’ll want to follow for the latest happenings on campus. The bonfire occurs on the Cathedral Lawn, and perhaps most importantly to new and returning students alike, features free T-shirts.

The event features displays from the Pitt cheer team and band, as well as members of the football team. The bonfire is open to all students with a valid Pitt ID. This is the perfect opportunity to join your fellow students and practice hailing to Pitt at 8 p.m. on Aug. 30.


— Nick France, top photograph by Aimee Obidzinski