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The last time the Pittsburgh Panthers won the national championship…

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In the year the nation celebrated its bicentennial, the Pitt Panthers heading into the college football season with some lofty expectations. Head coach Johnny Majors had one of his best teams and the Panthers started the year ranked in the AP top 10 for the first time since 1960. It was a long time coming, but with Tony Dorsett at running back and a defense equipped to make their own steel curtain similar to the glory days of the Pittsburgh Steelers at the time, the Panthers were ready to pounce on a national title.

The 1976 season opened with a bang. No. 9 Pitt defeated No. 11 Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana by a score fo 31-10 on national television. The new polls bumped the Panthers up to No. 3 and the national title race was officially on for the Panthers. A blowout win at Georgia Tech and a home-opening victory over Temple moved Pitt to 3-0 with the defense allowing no more than 14 points in each of the first three games of the season. The defense had their hands full on the road against Duke, but the Blue Devils were unable to ruin a magical run.

After things went off the rails a bit on the road against Duke, Pitt continued their undefeated run with the defense anchoring down the rest of the way. Only three teams managed to score in the double digits against the Panthers after Oct. 2, and Dorsett went on a run to take home the Heisman Trophy along the way.

Dorsett cleaned up on the award circuit in 1976. In addition to the Heisman Trophy, Dorsett took home the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award and the UPI Player of the Year. Dorsett rushed for 2,150 yards in the 11-game regular season to finish his collegiate career with 6,082 rushing yards. At the time, that stood as the new NCAA career rushing record and it lasted until 1998 when Ricky Williams of Texas eclipsed the record mark.

The strength of schedule argument was not a great one for the Panthers in 1976 with the regular season being bookended by the only ranked opponents on the schedule (the previously mentioned Irish and No. 16 Penn State in the regular-season finale). A 24-7 victory over the rival Nittany Lions capped a perfect regular season for No. 1 Pittsburgh, setting them up for a chance to play for the first national title in school history since 1937. In an era long before the College Football Playoff, or even the BCS, Pitt was pair3d up with No. 5 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. The Rose Bowl featured No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 USC, and the Cotton Bowl got to feature No. 4 Maryland against No. 6 Houston. That left the Sugar Bowl to feature the top-ranked Panthers and No. 5 Georgia, champions of the SEC. Dorsett once again shined and helped Pitt remain undefeated to claim its first national title since 1937. Leading 14-0 in the second quarter, Dorsett took off to put Pittsburgh up by three touchdowns with a run off to the right side of the field. There was no coming back from that for the Bulldogs.

Generations have come and gone since Pitt’s national championship victory, and the landscape of Pittsburgh football has certainly evolved along with the entire college football landscape. Here’s a look at what was going on the last time the Panthers won it all.

Last National Championship: 1976 (43 years and counting)

Who was President?

Gerald Ford was in his final year in the White House. With Bob Dole as his running mate, Ford would lose the 1976 presidential election to Jimmy Carter.

Current president Donald Trump was a year away from marrying his first wife, Ivana Zelníčková. In 1976, Trump began his run in Manhattan real estate with a 50 percent stake in the Commodore Hotel, paid for in largely by a loan from his father Fred Trump.

What was on TV?

Heeeeeyyyyyyy. The Fonz was leading the TV ratings with Happy Days being the nation’s top-rated TV show, followed by Laverne & ShirleyM*A*S*H was in its prime during the middle of its run on TV as well.

America was also tuning into shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man and Three’s Company.

Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michael went on the air to try getting The Beatles together for a reunion. His (satirical) efforts would go unrewarded, although the offer of $3,000 for the reunion was fun while it lasted. 1976 was the second year Saturday Nigth Live was on the air live from New York.

1976 also marked the second year on the air for popular game show Wheel of Fortune. But one other popular game show that went on the air for the first time in 1976 was Family Feud.

Cable network Showtime went on the air for the first time, although only in California.

What movies were hot?

Yo, Adrian!

Sylvester Stallone was a big winner on the big screen in 1976 with “Rocky.” Not only did “Rocky” revolutionize the training montage, but the film went on to dominate the top spot in the box office and win an Academy Award. And before we can continue, it is mandated that we must share one training montage.

There were certainly some other notable movies in 1976 as well, including “Taxi Driver” and the first remake of “A Star is Born.” Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, “Family Plot” was release din 1976 to bring a close to the legendary filmmaker’s career. It was also the end of an era for John Wayne, who appeared in his final film, “The Shootist.”

As far as sports movies go, “Rocky” led the way, but we also got “The Bad News Bears” on the big screen too.

Filming on a science fiction movie also began in 1976 directed by an early George Lucas. That movie would end up being “Star Wars.”

What else happened in 1976?

The conference championship picture in 1976 was messy around the country. Other than the ACC (Maryland) and Pac-8 (USC), there were split conference titles all over the place. The Big Eight had a three-way tie with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado. The Big Ten title was split between Michigan and Ohio State. Georgia and Kentucky shared the SEC title, and Houston and Texas Tech split the Southwest Conference title. BYU and Wyoming shared the WAC championship and Brown and Yale split the Ivy League championship.

Current Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi was 10 years old. Current Alabama head coach Nick Saban was coaching up the linebackers at his alma mater, Kent State, in his fourth season as an assistant head coach. Former Pitt tight end Mike Ditka was in his fourth season as an assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys. He would be named head coach of the Chicago Bears six years later.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were the reigning Super Bowl champions heading into the 1976 season after their victory over the Dallas Cowboys, but the Oakland Raiders were on their way to a Super Bowl title over the Minnesota Vikings during the 1976 season. The NFL also expanded with the addition of the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Each has won a Super Bowl more recently than Pitt own the national title.

The Big Red Machine of the Cincinnati Reds swept the New York Yankees in the World Series. Also taking place in Yankee Stadium that year was Muhammad Ali topping Ken Norton in 15 rounds for the World Heavyweight title.

Can Pitt still be it?

After winning it all in 1976, Majors returned to his alma mater of Tennessee to serve as the head coach of the Vols until 1992. His replacement, Jackie Sherrill, kept the good times rolling for the Panthers from 1977 through 1981 but Sherrill failed to get some of the best teams in program history to celebrate another national title. Pitt has not won a major bowl game since the 1981 season. Majors eventually returned to the Panthers in 1993 after being forced to resign at Tennessee, giving way to offensive coordinator Phillip Fulmer. The glory days of Pitt football had already vanished and could never be recaptured in the short return of Majors. A record of 12-32 was a far cry from the first stint of Majors, and he moved on to serve in a different role in the athletics department.

Since finishing the 1981 season at No. 4 in the final AP poll, the Panthers have finished in the AP top 25 just six times. Just once in that span have the Panthers reached the 10-win mark in any given season. Despite playing for its first ACC Championship last season, the ceiling has been lowered dramatically for the Panthers. Can Pitt climb back to national relevance? Nothing is impossible, but the game has changed and in many ways, Pitt has lost some advantages other programs have to offer from facilities to gameday atmosphere and more. Pitt has sprinkled in some good moments that have played a role in the national title picture (just ask West Virginia) but envisioning the Panthers going on a run like they did from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s may be foggy at best.

Documents show UCLA AD Dan Guerrero will retire in June of 2020

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Given the development earlier this month, this is certainly an interesting twist in the UCLA-USC rivalry.

Sept. 9, it was confirmed that Lynn Swann had “resigned” as the athletic director at USC.  Exactly 10 days later, it’s being reported that Dan Guerrero will step down from his post as UCLA’s athletic director next summer.

Specifically, Guerrero will retire on June 30, 2020.  Guerrero’s contract currently runs through Dec. 31 of this year, with the university system’s regents approving Thursday to extend it out to his retirement date.

The 67-year-old Guerrero — he’ll be 68 on his retirement date — has served in his current post since April of 2002.  His most recent high-profile hire, head football coach Chip Kelly, hasn’t remotely matched the post-addition fanfare as the Bruins have posted a 3-12 record in one-plus season under Kelly.  That includes an 0-3 start to the 2019 season that already has fans of the program talking about how much it would cost to buy Kelly out.

Because of neck injury, Texas A&M RB Vernon Jackson ‘will probably never play again’

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The tumult Texas A&M has experienced in its backfield the past several months has taken yet another negative twist.

In April, Texas A&M’s Vernon Jackson posted on social media that he had “suffered a neck injury in practice… [that] could keep me from ever playing again.” Three months later, A&M would only confirm that the running back would be sidelined for the entire 2019 season because of the injury.

Wednesday night on his weekly radio show, Jimbo Fisher acknowledged that, because of the injury, “Vernon will probably never play again.” The specific nature of the neck issue has never been divulged.

According to the head coach, Jackson will remain on a medical scholarship and serve as a student coach with the football program.

“He wanted to be in coaching,” Fisher said according to the Dallas Morning News. “He’s a tremendous human being. We wanted him to be a part of our team. He’s become a student coach and learning all the things you got to be to do that.”

Jackson was a four-star member of the Aggies’ 2018 recruiting class.  As a true freshman, he appeared in 12 games, carrying the ball seven times for 49 yards.

The situation around Jackson, as well as a couple of other developments, has left the Aggies with just three healthy running backs heading into Week 4.

Starter Jashaun Corbin, who posted his first career 100-yard game in the 2019 opener, is out for the season after suffering a hamstring injury in the Week 2 loss to Clemson.  This week, Deneric Prince opted to place his name into the NCAA transfer database.

Isaiah Spiller‘s 246 yards (on just 28 carries) currently leads the Aggies.  His 8.8 yards per carry is seventh nationally among all players with at least 25 rushing attempts.

Braylon Edwards: Michigan ‘light years behind Ohio State’ right now

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There is some breaking news, y’all.

To say that Ohio State has owned the greatest rivalry in all of sports of late would be an understatement of mammoth proportions, with Michigan losing each of the last seven editions of The Game.  Taking it back further, the Buckeyes have won 14 of the last 15 and 16 of the last 18.

Throughout the offseason, and as OSU is in its first year of the post-Urban Meyer era, there’s has been many a discussion that this is the season that, finally, the Wolverines get over that Buckeye hump.  Michigan, though, has hardly looked the part thus far — they nearly lost to Army in the Big House in double overtime — while Ohio State has outscored its opponents 138-31 in starting 3-0 and still looks like the class of the Big Ten.

Enter Braylon Edwards, the former U-M receiving great who has never in the past been shy about criticizing his alma mater when he feels it’s warranted.  During a radio appearance this week, Edwards laid out his unvarnished opinion on how the Wolverines stand in comparison to their hated rivals.

“Falling [behind OSU]? We fell,” Edwards said by way of USA Today. “It’s past tense. We’re light years behind Ohio State right now.”

Edwards also had stern words for how the Wolverines approach The Game compared to the Buckeyes.

My biggest concern, if I’m being honest. Three-hundred-sixty-five days a year, [OSU is] breathing, living, hating – they can’t even say our name. They hate us so much. When they go into that game, that’s that old-school, 1960s football, Friday Night Lights in Texas – that’s the atmosphere. That’s what they bring to the table when they play us. You can feel it on them. You can almost smell the hate when you play against them.

… You approach certain teams differently. We got to start approaching that game from the standpoint that they do. I feel like when we go into that game, you’re looking at two different preparation systems.

The latest edition of The Game will be played Nov. 30 in Ann Arbor.  If U-M were to lose that game, the heat underneath Jim Harbaugh‘s seat, regardless of the record the first 11 games, will be cranked up exponentially.

Nick Saban says Alabama’s highest-rated 2019 signee has ‘basically quit’ the team

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I guess it’s time to close the books on this little mini-soap opera, at least for now.

Antonio Alfano was suspended for unspecified reasons and didn’t dress for Alabama’s Week 2 home opener against New Mexico State.  Last week, Nick Saban added a bit of mystery to Alfano’s status when he stated that the highly-touted defensive lineman has “kind of disappeared a little bit” before launching into an oral dissertation about failing to confront and learn from one’s mistakes.

On Twitter nearly a week ago, Alfano’s parents stated that, in large part because of an ailing grandmother, their son “has not attended classes or practices” for an unspecified period of time.  Against their wishes, the parents also confirmed that Alfano has entered the NCAA transfer database.

Wednesday, Saban offered up an update in which the head coach, very bluntly, stated that the defensive lineman has basically quit the team as he hasn’t shown up for football-related activities, classes or counseling for unspecified issues.  The player isn’t responding to attempts by the team to contact him, either, Saban added.

With his name in the transfer database, other schools can contact Alfano without receiving permission from Alabama.  The true freshman also, as the parents alluded to in their social media posts last week, can pull his name from the portal and remain with the Crimson Tide.

During summer camp, Alfano missed a couple of practices for what were described as personal reasons but ultimately returned to the team.  Even before the suspension, the lineman didn’t play in the season opener against Duke.

A five-star 2019 signee, Alfano was rated as the No. 1 strongside defensive end in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in the state of New Jersey; and the No. 5 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  He was the highest-rated Crimson Tide signee during this most recent cycle.