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Wes Posvar: Pitt's Greatest Fan


Nick Rossi (SLIS ’85):

1981 was one of Pitt's great football years, with Pitt ranked first in the nation going into the final game of the season with Penn State. But, as we older Pitt fans will never forget, that game with Penn State became a living nightmare. For the younger members of the Pitt family, I can only manage a brief summary of that day.

The Panthers were led by future NFL Hall-of-Fame quarterback Dan Marino. Energized by their home crowd, the Panthers charged down the field and took a quick 14-0 lead sending the Penn State bench into shock. Pitt players danced and high fived on the sidelines as they began looking forward to meeting Georgia in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship.

Without reliving the nightmare myself, if I tell you we lost the game 48 to 14, you can imagine what that game felt like to those of us that stayed until the bitter end. There where a few thousand of us left in Pitt Stadium when the final whistle blew, and one of them was Pitt Chancellor Wesley W. Posvar. Often called Pitt's biggest sports fan, he demonstrated just how much he deserved that title that day, and then again later that night.

My wife (who happens to be Chancellor Posvar's youngest daughter) and I had made the trip from Cleveland where I was working for US Steel, and we were staying at the University Residence for the weekend. After an evening of steady nausea, pillow punching, and a lot of colorful language, we all eventually fell asleep—or so we thought.

Around 2 am, I woke up to repeated beeping of the house alarm. The house had been burglarized a couple of times over the years, so we were always jumpy when it went off, even though it was almost always a false alarm. A quick look at the alarm console showed that the alarm had been tripped, so my wife Lisa wasn't going to let me back in bed without checking the doors. It didn't take long, and as I reached the bottom of the stairs, I could see that the front door was wide open!

911 didn’t exist yet, much less cell phones, so figuring out what to do next wasn't so easy. In my shorts and a sheet, I wasn't going too far before calling the police, but a quick poke out the front door brought a sigh of relief—sort of. Walking up and down Devonshire Street in front of the University Residence was Chancellor Posvar in a rain coat and pajamas. There would be no sleep for this Pitt fan, not this night.

I shouted for him to “Get in the house before someone calls the police!” Judge Dauer lived next door, and it didn't take much for the police to scramble in response to someone skulking around the neighborhood. As he headed back toward the front door, I headed back upstairs, but not before noticing that the life-size cutout of Joe Paterno that had been standing in the front hallway when we went to sleep was missing its head. I didn't ask, but it did generate a smile from my half-asleep wife.

We all suffered around the water cooler for many days after that game, but it was clear to me forever, that no one deserved the title of Pitt's Greatest Sports Fan more that Wes Posvar.

Pictured: Chancellor Posvar (right) with Pitt alumnus and 1936 Olympic gold medalist John Woodruff.