Pittsburgh Panthers

FULL NAME:  University of Pittsburgh 

LOCATION:  Pittsburgh, PA



  • 1758:  Fort Duquesne was abandoned and replaced with Fort Pitt, named after William Pitt, the Elder, during the French and Indian War. The settlement adjacent the fort was also named for him, and his coat of arms adorns the city’s flag.
  • 1787:  Pittsburgh Academy founded.  
  • 1819: The Academy was renamed Western University of Pennsylvania (WUP). The sports teams were nicknamed Wups, predisposing them to frequent screw ups.
  • 1909:  (photo taken 1920) A year after the final name change to the University of Pittsburgh, students and alumni chose the panther as the new mascot because they were prominent Western Pennsylvania, and because no other school had taken it.
  • 1945:  The football team flirted with red and white jerseys for one season.
  • 1959:   If the cartoonish panther logo looks familiar, look no further than the old school Tony the Tiger.
  • 1966:   (Second photo taken 1920) Pittsburgh forked over $600 to get bits of real panther sent over from Denver for the new mascot costume. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time. The school also switched from private to public status.
  • 1967:   The booster club donated a live panther cub to replace the costumed one as the official Pitt mascot. Students named him Bagheera after the panther in Jungle Book. I couldn’t find any information on when they switched back to the costumed version, but I’m sure it involved a hospital visit. 
  • 1973:  Awwww yeah! Bring on those funky 70’s, baby. And just like that balding guy, spilling out of his “vintage-not-throwback” t-shirt, Pitt hung onto this look just a liiiiitle too long.
  • 1990’s:  (photo taken 1995) The Panther stole an identity. He was named Roc the Panther in honor of legendary Pitt player, coach and administrator Steve “The Rock” Petro.
  • 1997:   Pitt dropped the Pitt abbreviation trying to prove they DO know how to spell their name in full. The also dumped that 70’s color scheme for a traditional blue and gold. Finally, they introduced the “torch cut” Panther logo who apparently didn’t appreciate the torch touch-up.
  • 2007:   Pittsburgh figured out spelling is tough (just like math class, right Barbie?) and brought back the Pitt nickname that nobody stopped using anyway. The torch cut panther got a polished makeover which smoothed out his personality too, going from roar to yawn.  

RIVALS: Traditionally, the Panther scrapped with Dukes and Nittany Lions. Now he stalks Orange, Mountaineers and Fighting Irish. In nature, he’s only threatened by bears, jaguars and dudes selling panther pelts for mascot costumes.


  • Originality- (2) George MP Baird, the guy who suggested the name, claimed Pitt was the first to use panther. Does that include all of the puma concolor family: pumas, cougars, catamounts, mountain cats, mountain lions, etc.? Stay tuned to find out…Also, I haven’t found out why Pitt chose blue and gold, but it separates them from all of Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams that took their colors from the city’s flag.
  • Presentation- (1) As a logo, the torch cut panther was the pinnacle. As a mascot, Roc’s panther-pelt wearing ancestor(s) looked a lot more like a pissed off panther and a lot less like an irritated, cat-bear hybrid thingy.
  • Authenticity- (2) Even though the only panthers left in Western Pennsylvania are the statues all over the Pitt campus, panthers used to roam throughout the Appalachians, and they might even make their way back someday.
  • Intimidation Factor- (2) A male panther tips the scale between 115 and 220 lbs. but hunts elk (710 lbs.) and moose (850-1580 lbs.)?!
  • Political Incorrectness- (1) This one’s tough: Roc is a predator and is depicted as such; but the live and used-to-be-alive versions have disappeared, something PETA would find pleasing and I, therefore, do not.
  • TOTAL- (8) A great showing for the OP: Original Panther.


5 Responses

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  1. Anonymous said, on November 25, 2017 at 11:30

    Hello, the picture of the Panther mascot being held up by the crowd that you have listed as taken in 1995 was taken in September of 1994.

    The black “427” band in the upper-left quadrant of his chest was to honor the plane crash earlier that month when 132 people died..

    It’s not that important but just figured you may want to know about the small error.

  2. Anonymous said, on January 15, 2014 at 12:28


  3. Anonymous said, on December 15, 2012 at 21:42

    Blue and gold are the colors of Pitt are believed to have been selected because the the name of the university at the time (the colors were selected no later than 1890) was the Western University of Pennsylvania. The colors of the state are blue and gold. (this despite the fact that the university was fully private until 1966)

    There were four reasons given for the selection of the Panther.

    1. The Panther was the most formidable creature once indigenous to the Pittsburgh region.
    2. It had ancient, heraldic standing as a noble animal.
    3. The happy accident of alliteration.
    4. The close approximation of its hue to the old gold of the University’s colors (old gold and blue), hence its easy adaptability in decoration.

    The university was also in the process of moving to a section of the city adjacent to Panther Hollow over which a bridge was guarded by four Panther statues by noted sculptor Giuseppe Moretti. These were adopted as the official statues of the Pitt Panther for decades, and were attacked by rivals and guarded by students prior to big games. More about the statues can be found on wikipedia:

    There are a lot of other intermediary Pitt logos used, including three prominent ones from the 70s and 80 and 90s. In any case, the smoothed out version shown above was used only one year before the “torch-cut” panther head was reintroduced, sans “Pittsburgh” underneath, and is the current version used. The design was actually created by cutting it out of steel by a cutting-torch and then filled in with color.

  4. Tomas Stright said, on January 31, 2012 at 01:00

    What’s up everyone, it’s my first visit at this web site, and paragraph is actually fruitful designed for me, keep up posting these types of content.

  5. Anonymous said, on September 4, 2011 at 00:02

    Pitt switched back to the “torch-cut” Panther as a logo in 2008, as the simplified version was widely panned. The fan base often refers to the “torch-cut” Panther as the “Dino-cat”.

    The blue and gold color (official Old Gold and Navy Blue) is from the official colors of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as the university was named the Western University of Pennsylvania when the colors were officially adopted in 1890. So the traditional colors are more like the 70s versions than the current versions.

    The 1995 version of the costumed mascot had a mechanized tail that “wagged” in circles.

    There have been several other widely used Panther logos that can be found if you look around the web, particularly in the 70-90s. These logos are being used on some vintage merchandise today.

    BTW, kudos, good job on the logo research.

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