Mazurek Loved Pitt Experience

The Bowl Championship Series has drawn its share of criticism in recent years as college football fans clamor for a true playoff system that would determine a champion on the field, but controversy concerning bowl games and bowl matchups is nothing new. We should remember that a team that finished the season 9-1 and was ranked third in the nation did not go to a bowl game.<br><br>

Fred Mazurek was the quarterback of that 1963 University of Pittsburgh football squad.

Mazurek was a highly recruited athlete from Redstone High School in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. "I was widely recruited. All the Big 10 schools and Eastern schools," Mazurek recalled. "Basically, I ended up with Pitt because my dad was a Pitt fan and we were a very close family. But historically Pitt was a favorite of my dad's."

All of the '63 Panthers came from within a 100-mile radius of Pittsburgh.

"Pitt was recruiting mostly in Ohio and western Pennsylvania," Mazurek said. "I think today, with the way travel is and the way kids like to go away from home, you may not have the closeness that we had back in those days."

Pitt had finished 3-7 in 1961 and 5-5 in 1962, so there really wasn't any indication that the Panthers were primed for a big season.

"I think what helped us," Mazurek reflected, "were the redshirt guys. People like John Maczuzak and Ernie Borghetti, guys that had their fifth year. I don't know if there was any indication even after my sophomore year that we would have the team that we had."

Pitt's lone loss was a 24-12 defeat at the hands of Roger Staubach and Navy at Annapolis.

"Losing to Navy was extremely disappointing," Mazurek recalled. "I felt very bad after the Navy game. I don't know what happened, it was just one of those days. I think if we played Navy nine other times, even though Roger Staubach played for them, I think we were capable of beating them six or seven out of nine or ten times we played them. But I had a very poor game and I can't explain what happened."

Pitt bounced back the next week by beating Syracuse, then finished the season with successive victories over Notre Dame, Army, Miami, and Penn State.

Despite the 9-1 record there was no bowl game for the Panthers.

Pitt's game with Penn State, scheduled for Nov. 23rd, was postponed until Dec. 7 because of the assassination of President Kennedy on Nov. 22. Kennedy's death wound up hurting Pitt's bowl chances.

Pitt wanted to play in the Cotton or Orange bowl, but wound up with a Sun Bowl bid because of the Penn State postponement, and they turned down the bid.

There wasn't a huge outcry. "The bowls were not as prevalent and maybe it wasn't as attractive as it is today to go to a bowl game," Mazurek said. "Maybe we are a team that is recognized because we didn't go to a bowl game and maybe we wouldn't be talked about as much today if we had gone to a bowl game."

Mazurek also excelled as a baseball player at Pitt and has fond memories, "I had a great experience and thought the guys on the baseball team were fantastic and, of course, Bobby Lewis was just a great guy."

Mazurek is a corporate lawyer living in Claremont, CA with his wife Sue (Coach John Michelosen's daughter). They have two sons, David and Marty.

The Pitt players from '63 have done very well in all walks of life. "That's what I appreciate the most," said Mazurek. "The fact that we were both athletes and scholars."

Mazurek was inducted into the Mon Valley Hall of Fame last year.

He played briefly with the NFL Washington Redskins - completing his master's degree at Catholic University.

Mazurek wouldn't trade his experience at Pitt. "Family was important to us and the neat thing about Pitt was the fact that my mom and dad were able to see me play. The education I got was extremely valuable and, of course, I met my wife there."

George Von Benko
PittInsiders.com


Panther More Top Stories