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From 1973 through 1982, Pitt had one of the nation's most successful football programs, including a national championship in 1976. From 1976 through 1982, no team in college football won more games than the University of Pittsburgh Panthers. Pitt captured the 1976 national championship with a perfect 12-0 record, highlighted by the brilliance of Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett. The memorable season capped one of the most stunning turnarounds in college football history.
From 1964 through 1972, Pitt never had a winning season, and university officials had begun to consider the possible dissolution of the football program. But the hiring of coach Johnny Majors, fresh from an impressive revitalization of the program at Iowa State University, breathed life into Pitt's football fortunes. Majors brought with him a young, aggressive staff of assistant coaches, men whose contacts and experiences touched and reached recruiting regions Pitt had never harvested. Beginning in 1973, Pitt registered eleven consecutive winning seasons.
Following the championship season, Majors returned to his native Tennessee, where he had been an All-America halfback during the 1950s. Jackie Sherrill, Majors' replacement at Pitt, continued the winning ways, registering five straight winning campaigns, including three straight 11-1 seasons from 1979 through 1981. Pitt's football program produced numerous All-Americans, first-round NFL draft choices and brought a level of sustained recognition to the university's football--recognition that it hasn't reached since.