1943-45  Panthers
(Authentic Reproduction)







Clark Shaughnessy who was considered the “Father Of The T-Formation” was the first non-Pitt graduate to coach the football team. He came in for the 1943 season, scrapped the Sutherland Single Wing and managed to win only ten games in three seasons. His hiring was ballyhooed throughout the Western Pennsylvania region and spread nationally as he was seen as a complex man with a genius for football innovation. He surprised many long time Panthers followers by introducing his own, man-in-motion T-Formation offense but despite thirty years of coaching experience at Tulane, Loyola, Chicago, Stanford, and Maryland, failed to either recognize or admit that he did not have the material to run it efficiently. He hired respected assistants and called upon some of the famous Chicago Bears he had worked with like Sid Luckman to serve as part-time coaches but could not quite put his program together. He also surprised many of the Panthers faithful by donning his team in what he considered to be “classy Stanford red” and white uniforms, including an all white Riddell plastic helmet, and occasionally brought them onto the field in all-white! Wearing uniforms that he believed made them appear physically larger certainly did not aid team performance and not utilizing official school colors was considered an affront to many. In Shaughnessy’s defense, the War added to the difficulty. In an attempt to provide specialized military related or scientific training courses for students, they were often shuttled from one campus to another every few months. Starting back Bill Abromitis scored on a short touchdown plunge in the October 9, 1943 20-0 victory over West Virginia and a month later, led Penn State’s November 20th win by scoring against Pitt! With freshman quarterback Joe Mocha, Louis Chelko, and Frank Knisley joining Abromitis in the ’43 backfield, there was difficulty learning the new offense. Notre Dame’s opening game 41-0 spanking led to the newspaper headline that the game was “A classic case of ‘T’ against TNT.” 1943 finished at 3-5 and ’44 at 4-5. Expecting some improvement from Shaughnessy’s first Panthers season, 1944 was punctuated by huge losses; 58-0 vs Notre Dame, 69-7 vs Army, 39-7 vs. Illinois, 54-19 vs. Ohio State; and 47-0 vs. Indiana. A new university chancellor, the reinstatement of athletic scholarships, a schedule featuring eight of ten home games, and the presence of hometown star Jimmy Joe Robinson, the first African-American player to represent the Pitt football team, predicted more than the 3-7 final tally. With six consecutive losses and being shut out in four of the final five games, the tenure of Clark Shaughnessy ended after three seasons. The coach packed up his extensive offensive notes and served the Washington Redskins, returned briefly to Maryland, remained in the NFL with the Rams and Bears, and finally in 1966, spent one year attempting to rehabilitate the University Of Hawaii offense as their head coach. Robinson would enter the military and later return to complete his Pitt education and football career.


If interested in any of these Pittsburgh helmets please click on the photos below.