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Exuberant fans keep their cool after triumph

Sunday, November 14, 1999

By Kristen Ostendorf and Michael A. Fuoco, Post-Gazette Staff Writers

It took 74 years for Pitt Stadium to outlive its usefulness, but it took University of Pittsburgh students not much longer than 74 seconds to storm the field and tear down the goal posts after the last game at the old oval atop Cardiac Hill.

Pitt plays Notre Dame to a sell out-crowd of more than 60,000 in the last game at Pitt Stadium yesterday, In the background is the Cathedral of Learning and the University of Pittsburgh campus in Oakland. (Robert J. Pavuchak, Post-Gazette) 

Actually, the hundreds of young people didn't even wait for the 37-27 victory over Notre Dame to end before they swarmed from the stands and headed for the end zones last night -- 9 seconds still were left in the game.

Cheering students continued to pour onto the field despite the announcer's stern warnings: "Students! Please remember you must stay off the field until the game is over."

The students wanted none of that. One group rushed Notre Dame's goal post, and another went after Pitt's. Security guards in yellow jackets couldn't hold the crowd back.

"The game is not over. The game is not over," the announcer cried.

But Notre Dame quarterback Jarious Jackson had just thrown an incomplete pass on fourth down, so game officials waved off the final, meaningless seconds.

Dejected Notre Dame players headed for the showers, while the victorious Panthers' players headed to midfield to savor the moment.

A line of police officers on horses walked into the crowd, and they were booed as they tried to push the crowd back.

One of the goal posts then came down easily, but students had trouble with the other one and had to send a few of their more determined members up the pole and onto the crossbar to ride the stubborn thing to the ground.

Fans celebrate on the field after Pitt's victory over Notre Dame. (Matt Freed, Post-Gazette) 

There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests.

Some fans tried to rip up pieces of the artificial turf, but there was no widespread demolition reminiscent of what happened to Forbes Field after the last baseball game there in 1970. Fans carted off anything that wasn't nailed down, and a lot of things that were, such as whole sections of bleacher seats.

Last night, Megan Shoup, a Pitt sophomore, went down on the field with her boyfriend.

"I tried to get a piece of the turf, but it was hard to rip off," she said. "We were right below the goalpost when it fell down. It was crazy. It was fun, though."

Outside the stadium, fans headed toward the lower campus, where car horns blared and white pompoms stirred the night air.

Near the Original Hot Dog Shop on Forbes Avenue, one fan showed his excitement by hopping over a parking meter. Another walked down South Bouquet Street shirtless, but his chest, stomach and back were covered with Iron City Beer stickers.

An elderly man wearing Notre Dame regalia was a good sport, waving to a carload of Pitt students when they honked at him.

Across Forbes from the "O," three Pittsburgh police officers watched but didn't have to react to any problems.

"I am surprised and pleased with the ease with which this is going, " said Sgt. Michael DelCimmuto. "No one's complaining about anything. It 's calm and orderly ... for as big a game as this was."

"It's rowdier on a normal Friday night than it is tonight," said Officer John McBurney.

"The biggest problem," said Officer Mike Fusco, "is there are no cabs. I've had 15 people ask me where they could get one."

Next year, Pitt will play in Three Rivers Stadium then will move to the new Steelers stadium in 2001. Pitt Stadium will be replaced by a convocation center and student housing.

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