Jason Prziborowski is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday’s Big East game between Pittsburgh and Marquette.
Pitt hoisted a banner at halftime of Saturday’s game against Marquette, marking the occasion of two million fans who have watched games at the Petersen Events Center. In addition, the banner marked a few notable achievements in The Pete’s 11-year history: 5-0 versus Top 5 opponents, a sellout each and every year, and six conference championships. Pitt plays its home games in the Petersen Events Center, the relatively cozy arena on campus that holds 12,508 spectators chomping at the bit to see Panther victories, something that typically happens early and often throughout the season. Pitt is in its 11th season at The Pete, and it has reeled off an astonishing winning percentage that is close to 90% in almost 200 games. All of this begs the question of why is it so tough for opponents to win there?
First and foremost, there is The Oakland Zoo, Pitt’s famed student section. The 2,000 deep U-shaped student section that occupies the majority of the bottom 10 rows of The Pete is a great place to start. An hour before tip-off, The Zoo is about 75% full, with students outfitted in this season’s gold Oakland Zoo t-shirts. On the back of every chair when students arrive sits a large single sheet of newspaper print. During starting lineups, every member of the section covers his or her face with this newspaper when the opposing team is announced. They want everyone in the building to know they are not impressed, a la McKayla Maroney of the US Olympic Gymnastics Team. The Oakland Zoo brings energy, dedication, and a presence, not to mention noise and intimidation, all of which is very hard for the opposing team to tune out.