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No. 1 ROC finishes dominant run to win the first Pitt Madness

Roc flexes next to a Top of the Cathedral medallion

ROC, the University of Pittsburgh’s favorite fuzzy friend, won the final round of voting in Pitt Madness to be officially named the “most Pitt” thing of all.

The vote finished with a 59% to 41% breakdown, and the mascot beat out No. 7 “Sweet Caroline” to win. The Neil Diamond classic had an impressive run to this point, but stood no chance against ROC, who won every round of voting by at least 18%.

The Panther has been Pitt’s mascot since the year 1909, when it was selected by a group of students and alumni. It was chosen for being a formidable creature once indigenous to the Pittsburgh region, for its ancient, heraldic standing as a noble animal and for the “happy accident” of alliteration.

ROC’s name was inspired by Pitt football great Steve Petro, who was nicknamed “The Rock” for his toughness and durability. Petro played for the Panthers from 1936-38, played for former NFL franchise the Brooklyn Dodgers and served in World War II. He later joined Pitt’s coaching staff from 1950 to 1972 and served as assistant to the athletic director from 1973-1994.

So next time you see ROC around campus, be sure to give him a high five or a congratulations for his victory and be sure to keep an eye on @PittOfficial for more interactive content!

Look back on exciting matchups from the entire month.

Week 1: Meet the competitors
Week 2: The Eternal Eight
Week 3: Championship week


The final vote is set

Garnering over 6,400 each throughout the four rounds, ROC and Sweet Caroline are both heavy hitters, so there’s only one question remaining: Which do you think is the most “Pitt”? Make your voice heard on Friday, March 29.

Athletics fandom reigns supreme

Each contestant in the Eternal Eight was related to Pitt sports in some fashion; No. 1 ROC won against No. 8 Pitt Sports Teams, the No. 13 Backyard Brawl narrowly beat out No. 12 Oakland Zoo, and No. 3 Hail to Pitt trounced No. 11 Victory Lights. But no amount of nose rubs brought good luck for the No. 2 Panther Statue, which ended up being upset by “Sweet Caroline,” Pitt football fans’ No. 7 seeded rallying song.

No. 1 ROC continues dominant run with victory over No. 13 Backyard Brawl

The Backyard Brawl’s Cinderella run came to a close in the Fitzgerald Four, where it on juggernaut No. 1 seed ROC. Pitt’s beloved mascot faced his closest margin yet in this matchup — ROC has won at least 60% of the vote in all four rounds so far, attaining 79% in his largest victory, over Hammocks in the Salk Sixteen. 

No. 7 Sweet Caroline takes down No. 3 Hail to Pitt in closest matchup yet

In a surprising upset, No. 7 “Sweet Caroline” continues on to the final by defeating No. 3 Hail to Pitt. The battle of Pitt’s two most common rallying cries finished in the classic song’s favor in the tournament’s closest vote yet. Sweet Caroline won just 50.50% of the vote over Hail to Pitt, a difference of a mere 27 votes.


It's time for the Eternal Eight

Top three seeds going strong

The top three seeds of the tournament are all going strong. The No. 2 seed Panther Statue had the biggest win of the tournament, prevailing over No. 31 Spotted Lanternfly by a margin of 95% to only 5%.

No. 1 ROC and No. 3 Hail to Pitt also won in the first round by similar margins. ROC took down the now-departing-Pittsburgh Kenny Pickett by winning 70% of the vote while Hail to Pitt emerged victorious against “Walk sign is on” by winning 71% of the vote.

And all three won once again in the second round, with the smallest margin of victory being Panther Statue’s impressive 72% over the very building it stands before, the William Pitt Union. ROC and Hail to Pitt both had massive victories over No. 16 Hammocks and No. 14 Heinz Chapel to proceed to the Eternal Eight.

To move on to the Fitzgerald Four, each of the top three faces their hardest matchup yet against, respectively, No. 4 Pitt Sports Teams, No. 7 Sweet Caroline and No. 11 Victory Lights (more on them later).

First round mostly chalk, except Forbes Avenue

In a stunning upset, there was no party on Fifth Ave. in the first round of the bracket. Forbes overtook Fifth as the Pitt community’s chosen avenue in a vote that finished 64% to 36%. More than 1,400 voters chose the No. 28 seeded Forbes Avenue over No. 5 Fifth Avenue. That opened up the opportunity for the No. 12 Oakland Zoo to win in the Salk Sixteen, putting them into the Eternal Eight, in a matchup with our next choice to watch.

No. 13 Backyard Brawl upsets No. 4 Blue and Gold

Pitt fans clamored for more than a decade for the return of the Backyard Brawl, and that fervor translated into a nice Cinderella run for them. The Backyard Brawl was heavily favored in the first round and had one of the tournament’s largest victories, winning 89% of the vote against The Eatery. Then, the rivalry’s surprise win over No. 4 Blue and Gold, with 65% of the vote, moved it into the Eternal Eight. Pitt fans face a tough question of choosing between the Oakland Zoo and the Backyard Brawl when voting for the Eternal Eight begins; this matchup could go either way.

No. 11 Victory Lights on a roll

The No. 11 Victory Lights might have to shine for their own victory if they keep up this performance. After sneaking out a close first round victory against Therapy Dog Tuesdays by bringing in 59% of the vote, the Victory Lights pulled off an upset against the No. 6 Cathy vs. Cathedral Debate by a margin of 66% to 34%. They face a hard matchup in Hail to Pitt in the Eternal Eight; if they manage to pull off another surprise in a closely contested vote, however, we could see this double-digit seed make the Fitzgerald Four.


The Madness begins

@PittOfficial this week announced a bracket challenge to determine what the Pitt community sees as the “most Pitt” thing about the University.

A team of Pitt-bracketology experts who assembled the challenge accepted more than 100 entries and narrowed down the most submitted options to this exclusive field of 32 competitors. Here's the full list.

Here, I’ll run down the four top seeds, point out some underdogs to keep in mind for your bracket and then finish up with my Nick’s Picks for the Fitzgerald Four.

The favorites

Four heavy hitters are the obvious front-runners.

ROC is as timeless as Pitt itself, with the Panther serving as Pitt’s mascot since 1909. Named after Pitt football great Steve “The Rock” Petro, ROC is a formidable No. 1 seed for this tournament.

This is then followed by the panther statue outside the William Pitt Union. Sculpted by Miriani Guido in Parma, Italy, the statue was placed outside the union to celebrate the new millennium in late 2001. It has since become a tradition for fans to rub the statue for good luck prior to athletic events.

Hail to Pitt is a common chant for Pitt fans, as well as a customary closing signature in correspondence between alumni. Inspired by the “Hail to Pitt” fight song, the chant is a defining part of Pitt’s culture both on and off the field — and makes our No. 3 seed a dangerous contestant.

Finally, blue and gold are, of course, Pitt’s defining colors. Even if their exact shades have changed over time (and been a hotly contested debate), Pitt is as synonymous with blue and gold as the surrounding city is with black and gold.

The underdogs

The No. 12 Oakland Zoo and No. 23 Pitt Band are both some of the most dedicated groups on campus, serving as symbols of Pitt to the outward athletic world. The renowned ferocity with which the Zoo cheers on their teams is known nationwide, and the Pitt Band has a plethora of talent both currently in their ranks and among their alumni. So don’t be surprised if either of those groups show up well and vote for themselves.

The Backyard Brawl is a timeless rivalry that defined entire generations of Pitt fans — most notably for the football team. For the longest time, a Panthers team’s success could be defined by one question: “Did they beat West Virginia?” And now that it has returned, Panthers fans hope to never miss out on this No. 13 seed again.

[Read Nick's brief history of the contentious matchup]

As for the No. 26 seed, Pitt's peregrine falcons … well, how can anyone resist a cute animal? If the internet’s love for animals can overcome the tough first round matchup that is No. 7 “Sweet Caroline,” everyone’s favorite winged residents of the Cathedral of Learning may be in for a deep run through the tournament.

Nick’s Picks for the Fitzgerald Four

No. 13 Backyard Brawl over No. 17 Pitt Script

This writer may or may not be heavily influenced by nostalgia. It’s hard not to be when one grew up on some of the most legendary Backyard Brawl moments in the rivalry’s history, such as 2007’s legendary 13-9 upset, the amazing performance of Dion Lewis in the 2009 nail-biter Pitt loss to WVU and the 2011 matchup that many assumed would be the rivalry’s finale.

This writer may also have a very personal love for the Pitt Script, with a childhood fondness for the logos that preceded his time and an appreciation for the uniforms from the days of Dorsett and Marino.

But even in that matchup, it’s tough to not go with the Backyard Brawl. Thus, this Fitzgerald Four matchup is a biased choice, but one I stand by.

No. 2 Panther Statue vs. No. 3 Hail to Pitt

These choices are a bit more chalk, but there are perhaps no greater symbols of Pitt, other than the grand old Cathedral in the center of campus, than the Panther statue and Hail to Pitt. This is certainly a close matchup, and I could see things going either way. For my money, though, Hail to Pitt just has a greater spread as something you can share anywhere — whether shouting, texting or writing, you can H2P — so I’d give it the very slight edge.

No. 13 Backyard Brawl over No. 3 Hail to Pitt

Is this choice yet again influenced by this writer’s own biases? Of course. But I’d gladly accept any reality in which we never go another year without this rivalry, let alone a decade, and instead get to see it played out for the rest of time. For me, nothing defines Pitt better than the tough-nosed football these games represent, and the dedication and love of Pitt’s fans filling Acrisure Stadium to record attendances for the return to this historic rivalry.

But those are just my picks. Why not make your own voice heard and help decide what truly defines Pitt by voting yourself? You can vote in the Round of 32 by visiting the @PittOfficial Instagram page and checking the Stories on March 11. Voting for the following rounds will then occur on March 15 for the Salk Sixteen, March 19 for the Eternal Eight and March 22 for the Fitzgerald Four. The final vote is on March 29.


— Nick France