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OAKLAND ZOO!!! (What?? Can’t Hear You)

Some 1,500 strong and wearing yellow T-shirts blaring the “Oakland Zoo” logo, Pitt’s student fan section encircles the Petersen Events Center’s lower level during home basketball games.

They raise decibels, inspire Panthers, intimidate opponents, and cheer and dress like…they belong in a zoo. But they’re a class act, too.

Since it first appeared on Feb. 7, 2001, for a game against Seton Hall at Pitt’s Fitzgerald Field House, the Oakland Zoo has grown from a small group of students into an official student organization that has earned an NCAA Sportsmanship Award, volunteered for community service, and sponsored charitable organizations.

The Zoo gained fame during a March 2, 2003, game vs. Connecticut when ESPN college hoops icon Dick Vitale declared it to be one of the nation’s finest student cheering sections. "One of the greatest spectacles in all of college basketball—the Oakland Zoo," Vitale's ESPN colleague Bill Rafery later concurred.

The Zoo has been featured on ESPN’s Student Spirit Week segment and ESPN College Game Day and in the Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, and ESPN The Magazine. Thanks greatly to the Zoo, Pitt's Petersen Events Center is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 10 in such categories as loudest college basketball arena, toughest place to play, and best game atmosphere.

"These fans are unbelievable," Mark Cuban, the Pittsburgh-born owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, said of the Zoo. "They're rowdy, loud, and proud. That's the way you want your fans to be."