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Who should be in Pitt’s inaugural Hall of Fame class? Glad you asked.

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University of Pittsburgh Panthers Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

After it had been rumored last year, there was some news a few days ago that Pitt will be creating a Hall of Fame. Personally, I think this is a great idea that’s long overdue with how many great athletes the school has churned out over the years. There are just too many all-time greats not to have a formalized Hall of Fame.

You can think of many deserving players and coaches, obviously. It wouldn’t take most super fans long to probably rattle off 20 names or so. I don’t know how many will be in the inaugural class but if you’re giving me five slots, here’s who’s getting them:

  • Tony Dorsett
  • Marshall Goldberg
  • Charles Smith
  • Jock Sutherland
  • John Woodruff

The list is football heavy and there’s no real way around it. Truthfully, it could be even more football heavy. It’s the sport that the school has had the most success in by a wide margin.

Sutherland is perhaps the first football personality that deserves recognition. He won five national championships as a coach in only nine seasons, won one as a player at Pitt, and was a consensus All-American as a player. Dorsett has to be in for winning a Heisman and leading the team to its last national championship before going on to a Hall of Fame pro career. Goldberg was arguably Pitt’s best player in the early years, helping the team to two national championships and twice being named an All-American. Those are probably my three locks as far as guys should get in and I don’t know that I’d budge from that.

In other sports, Charles Smith gets in for me on the basketball side. This was tough for me as you can make a really strong case for Charley Hyatt. He led the nation in scoring twice in the 1920s and led the team to their only two national championships in that sport. But Smith is the school’s all-time leader in points and blocks, and was a top three NBA pick in an era where there was much more competition in basketball. I’m less sold on Smith than I am my first three picks but I think he probably belongs.

Finally, I’d put John Woodruff in for track and field. Ironically, his most famous achievement came not while participating for Pitt but representing the nation when he won the gold medal in the 800m race in the 1936 Olympics. I could listen to an argument for someone else in his place because of that but the win was so important as it came in Nazi Germany only a few years prior to World War II that his representation feels deserved. He was also a member of Pitt while participating in the Olympics so that achievement is fair game as part of his ‘Pitt career.’

So who just misses the cut? I think there are several you can argue for.

First, you’ve got the aforementioned Hyatt. And sticking with basketball, there’s also Doc Carlson, who was coach of those championship basketball teams. Either could be in an inaugural class. Personally, I went back and forth quite a bit on Woodruff and Carlson. In the end, though, I thought an Olympic sport needed to be represented.

Hugh Green on the football side is another one as is Bill Fralic, who was an absolutely dominant offensive lineman. But I don’t know that you can make the argument above any of the three I’ve selected and four football players out of five inductions would be overkill.

Rex Peery is a guy that is just on the outside for me. Overall, he’s probably seventh for me just behind Carlson at No. 6. He was Pitt’s longtime wrestling coach in the 1950s and 1960s. Peery coached several national champions, including his two sons (who each remain the school’s only three-time national champions) and turned Pitt into a powerhouse. Had he won a national championship as a coach or wrestled at Pitt (he wrestled at Oklahoma A&M, now Oklahoma State), his case would be even stronger. But as it stands, you can make a great case for him, anyway, as well as his two sons Hugh and Ed, who won back-to-back national championships. Seeing Peery get in on the first ballot would be beyond deserving.

Pop Warner’s another great candidate. In the end, I didn’t want two coaches from about 100 years ago on my list but Warner is one guy that should get inducted quickly. Everyone has heard of Pop Warner football and he won three national championships at Pitt. The lone knock against him is that only eight of his 45 years head coaching were at Pitt but when you have as much success as he did, I mean, it’s easy to put him in.

Dan Marino will be a guy that a lot of people will want in right away. But I wouldn’t put him in the inaugural class if the emphasis is on what players/coaches did while at Pitt. Marino had a very good career at Pitt but only one really dominant season (1981). If we’re counting pro careers, he obviously gets a lot more consideration. But purely as a Pitt quarterback, he wouldn’t make my list of top five or maybe even top ten.

Not sticking with one guy for too long here, Marino’s decision will be an interesting one. The school wants to maintain good relations with him and not ‘snub’ him, in a way. So what do you do? Put him in since he’s still alive over other more deserving candidates that may be deceased? Politics are a part of everything and if Marino would get in over a guy like Goldberg, that would be sort of telling. I initially had him higher but the more I’ve thought about it, he probably wouldn’t even crack my top ten. He’s just not more deserving than, say, a three-time national champion in wrestling to me.

Ineligible guys are current players such as Larry Fitzgerald, Aaron Donald, Darrelle Revis, and Lesean McCoy since rules state you have to be five years removed from playing and can’t be playing in the pros. But some or all of those guys will get consideration later, obviously, as could others, like DeJuan Blair. Jamie Dixon surely should be in at some point, too, but I’m not sure of the rules on things like former coaches. Same with a guy like Sean Miller that played at Pitt but is currently coaching elsewhere.

The real answer is that I’m hoping an inaugural class is simply much bigger than five inductees. I chose five because that’s a popular number but Pitt has a lot of catching up to do. Put five people in every year and it would take you about a decade to get everyone in that probably deserves to be in, considering athletes, coaches, and administrators. I’d probably start with an inaugural class of at least ten.

Oh, and Tyler Palko and Vonteego Cummings. Put those dudes in ASAP.

What about you? If we’re keeping it to five, who’s on your list?

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