A "True Pitt Man'' Is Gone

If talking football is a passion, spending any amount of time with Foge Fazio would be a blessing.

That's probably what I'll remember most about Serafino Fazio, who everybody knew as Foge. Fazio was a Pitt man from start to finish, from his college playing days in the late 1950s to his passing Wednesday from cancer. He was 71.

"He was all Blue and Gold, and he bled Blue and Gold,'' Pitt announcer Bill Hillgrove said. "I even felt that way when he coached at Notre Dame or in the pros, he always had the Panthers on his mind. It was great to have him back. Not just because he was such a great Pitt Panther, but he was such a great defensive mind.

"Fralic would drift toward the offense, as a former guard, but Foge just could see things that other guys probably wouldn't see on defense. We just had such a blast. It's too bad that he won't see the Cincinnati game. He wanted to be at that one so badly, but I guess now he'll have the best seat in the house. I just know that I'm going to miss him a lot.''

Pitt director of athletics Steve Pederson spearheaded the efforts to add Fazio to the football broadcasting booth.

"This was a Pitt man in the truest sense of the term,'' Pederson said. "He had such an indomitable spirit. He obviously loved the University, and the University loved him. When you think about his life and how much the University was a part of it, it's important to note just how closely he stayed with the University.''

Pederson added that Fazio was among the first Pitt followers to congratulate him for hiring Dave Wannstedt to coach the Panthers football team.

"Foge was a true Pitt Man,'' Wannstedt said. "He loved this University, and everyone at Pitt loved Foge. He was an outstanding football coach and an even better person. From the time I came back to Pittsburgh five years ago, no one has been a better friend or supporter of what we are doing at Pitt. He will be greatly missed.''

Even Pitt men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon was touched by Fazio.

"This is a bittersweet night for Pitt,'' Dixon said. "We're obviously very excited to get a victory against Duquesne, but it was brought to my attention that we lost one of our most dearest Pitt people and one of the most loving and caring Pitt guys that I've met in my 11 years here in Foge Fazio.

"I just found out when I got off the floor that he passed, so we send out our condolences to the family. That really made it a tough day when I heard that.''

Fazio was a letterman for the University of Pittsburgh from 1958-59, and he was an All-East center as a senior in 1959. He also played in the old AFL for the Boston Patriots, but the majority of his life was spent as a coach.

A defensive wizard, Fazio was Pitt's linebackers coach in the 1970s and the defensive coordinator from 1979-81. When Jackie Sherrill left, Fazio was promoted to head coach, and he served in that position from 1982-85.

The Panthers were 9-3 in 1982, but lost their last two games to Penn State in the regular season and SMU in the Cotton Bowl. They were 8-3-1 in 1982 with a tie to the Nittany Lions and loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. The 1984 and '85 squads went 3-7-1 and 5-5-1, respectively, and that was it for Fazio.

Mike Gottfried replaced Fazio as Pitt's head coach before the 1986 season, and he moved on to the NFL. Fazio coached with the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets before becoming the defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings in 1995 until he left in 1999.

Fazio then spent a year as the linebackers coach for the Washington Redskins before being hired as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2001. He retired from the Browns in 2003, but was hired as a defensive consultant by Mike Tice with the Vikings in 2005.

Fazio returned to his alma mater in 2008 as a radio commentator with Pitt football's pre-game show and as the third man in the booth with Hillgrove and former Pitt All-American Bill Fralic.

With all the football players passing over the years, Heaven should have quite an all-star team. Now, it finally got a defensive coordinator.

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