Johnny Majors and the Pitt Script
When Pitt and Tennessee meet on Saturday (noon ET, ESPN), they'll honor legendary coach Johnny Majors, who coached at both schools. Former Majors assistant Jackie Sherrill, who succeeded him at Pitt, will serve as the Panthers' honorary captain.
Majors obviously made an enormous impact on the field. But we spoke to Sherrill last year about one of Majors' most interesting contributions to college football: the Pitt Script.
Upon arriving at Pitt in 1973, Majors wasted no time making it clear how much he cared about details. In his first team meeting, he stuffed the Panthers' jerseys in a trash can, saying he believed proud teams played better, and this included looking good. The nondescript logoless helmets were history. The Panthers' blue and gold looked too much like Notre Dame's colors, too.
"In the coaching profession, Coach Majors was the best PR guy ever," Sherrill, who was a 30-year-old defensive coordinator for Majors when they arrived, told ESPN. "He went to Carnegie Mellon classes on how to be a PR guy. Coach studied pretty hard."
Majors hired an artist to create a Pitt logo and picked more distinctive colors. He was involved in every aspect of the design, down to the placement and thickness of stripes on the jerseys and where they'd go, unlike today where shoe companies often design uniforms based on a template.
"I went on vacation with Coach and his family back to Tennessee," Sherrill said. "We were still designing the uniform on that trip. I remember going around to helmet companies to make sure they were able to make that color, because he wanted it implanted in the plastic, not painted."
For six months, Sherrill frequently had to model prototypes on the field while Majors sat in the stands and pondered the combinations. He finally settled on the iconic Pitt Script, which adorned helmets as part of one of the greatest uniforms in college football history. It was the logo of the Panthers' 1976 national championship team and was worn by Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino when they became legends. Pitt returned to it in 2015 after an ill-advised makeover in 1996.
"The Pitt Script was kind of like the Nike swoosh or the Adidas stripes, like the Texas Longhorn or the Alabama A," Sherrill said. "It's iconic. During that period of time, it was a symbol of one of the best football teams in the country."