Pitt and Tennessee are set to face each other on the gridiron at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Sept. 11 in the first game of a home-and-home series. And on Wednesday, the schools announced the series would be called the Johnny Majors Classic to honor the coach who led both programs to prominence.
“We are honored to join the University of Tennessee in celebrating the life of Coach Johnny Majors,” Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said. “Beyond the victories, Coach Majors made such a huge impact on the lives of his players. That’s his greatest legacy, and the University of Pittsburgh is incredibly proud to be part of it. We look forward to being with the Majors family when we visit in September.”
Majors coached Pitt from 1973 to 1976 and from 1993 to 1996. During his first stint at Pitt, he changed every facet of the team from its colors and logo to its on-field performance.
Notably, Majors created the Pitt script logo and changed the team’s colors from navy blue and old gold to royal blue and mustard yellow in the 1970s. Majors also inherited a 1-10 Pitt team and led it to four straight winning seasons. But his most notable achievement was running the table and winning a national championship over the course of the 1976 season.
Majors would leave Pittsburgh for Knoxville in 1977 and serve as the head coach at his alma mater until 1992. He would never match the success he found in 1976, but he came close with an 11-1 season that included a Cotton Bowl victory in 1989. All told, he went 116-62-8 at Tennessee after an initial 33-13-1 run in Pittsburgh, and he would conclude his career at Pitt in the 1990s, working to resurrect a program that had fallen into disrepair.
Over the course of a 29-year career, Majors posted a 185-137-10 record. On June 3, 2020, he died in Knoxville at the age of 85.
“This is an incredibly fitting tribute for Coach Majors, a true coaching legend who made such a lasting impact at both Pitt and Tennessee,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Every time I walk past our national championship display, I’m reminded [of] — and inspired by — his legacy. He set high standards on and off the field during his incredible career.”
Pitt and Tennessee have only met on the gridiron twice before: once in 1980 and once in 1983. Pitt won the first matchup 30-6 and the second 13-3. Majors coached Tennessee in both games, falling to Jackie Sherrill in 1980 and Foge Fazio in 1983. Sherrill and Fazio both served as defensive coordinators under Majors at Pitt during the 1970s and went on to enjoy successful coaching careers of their own.
During the Johnny Majors Classic, the legacy of the coach will be celebrated with in-game festivities. The second contest in the home-and-home series will take place in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field on Sept. 10, 2022.