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Button Up: Pitt-Penn State Merchandise Through The Ages

Penn State students felt the sting of the reignited rivalry between Pitt and Penn State after last year’s heartbreaking loss at Heinz Field. With Penn State leading the all-time series 50-43-4 (and favored to win this this year’s matchup), the nostalgia of the long-standing contest is sure to fuel the turf war.

Penn State fans and Pitt fans have been throwing shade at each other all year in preparation for another game, but the back-and-forth banter is nothing new: The best Panther puns came to us in the form of bank buttons and T-shirts at the height of the rivalry in the 70s and 80s.

We’ve already seen some of your best pieces of vintage Pitt apparel (check out this very literal “Shitt on Pitt” shirt from our vintage apparel series), so we went on the hunt for more. Here’s what we found on eBay:

Central Counties Bank and Pittsburgh-based Mellon Bank were the first two banks to distribute the famous Penn State football bank buttons. They usually came in a set of 12 buttons (one for each game), but here are two of our favorites.

This simple button tells the story of one Penn State’s greatest upsets: In 1981, Penn State toppled No. 1 Pitt, killing the Panthers’ chance for a second national title in five years. In true Penn State fashion, the Nittany Lions scored 34 points in the second half and held the Panthers scoreless to win 48-14.

One year after the 1981 stunner, Central Counties Bank released this button, calling for a repeat performance.

Just call us Youngstown State fans. Oh, and don’t forget Northwestern, too.

These buttons from F&M Trust/WCHA, Sera-Tec Biologicals (the BioLife of its day), and The Russel National Bank showcase some of our favorite Pitt puns.

This in-house button came straight from the Penn State Booster Club, who was happy to illustrate the superior big cat of Pennsylvania.

It’s time to reunite the Partners for a Panther Free America.

A little dark coming from a restaurant with a sun in its logo, but we’ll take it.

We pity Pitt and so should you.

The battle for the title of “Beast of the East” is coming to an close — even if Pitt won every game in the three-year rivalry series ending in 2019, Penn State would still lead the all-time series.


Saturday’s game against the Panthers kicks off at 3:30 p.m. at Beaver Stadium. Pitt Hate Week is a time-honored tradition, so let’s go back to the basics: When you diss Pitt fans, do it well, but more importantly, do it in style.

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About the Author

Gabriela Stevenson

Gabriela is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism and Onward State's student life editor. She is from Norristown, PA, which she normally refers to as "30 minutes outside of Philadelphia" (she looked up the exact driving time). She enjoys Broadway musicals, neck pillows, and eating cereal at night. To contact Gabriela, e-mail her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @GabiStevenson if you want to feel young again.


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