At the start of every football practice, Neal Diamond’s Sweet Caroline is heard playing over the loudspeakers with a few scattered chants of “eat sh*t Pitt” from some of the players.
West Virginia football head coach Neal Brown was asked about the song at his press conference yesterday and why the team is playing it. In addition to training camp, the team has played it since the spring at various activities.
“We’re trying to get them ready for the atmosphere. And, I think when you have rivalries, some of it’s fun, too,” said Brown. “If you remember going back to spring ball we played that. And they did that all summer. So, when we started practice, they were still playing it. It’s fun.”
The aspect of playing a rival’s traditional song isn’t abnormal to college football, nor is it even abnormal to the Backyard Brawl. In a 2005 article on ESPN Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt (2005-10) touched on how his school would played John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” both when he was the head coach and with the team during the 1970s.
It was a strategy that he learned from former Pitt coach Johnny Majors (1973-76) who took it a step further. Majors played Denver’s hit song during the entire practice and, what might be seen as inhumane today, allowed only Mt. Dew to be drunk during practices leading up to the Backyard Brawl.
“No bebop music, no jazz,” Majors said in the aforementioned ESPN article. “They showered pretty fast, they got so sick of that damn thing. We had a little humor in it, but it was serious business. We went down there pretty loose and confident.”
This is one of the first few chances that WVU has had to use “Sweet Caroline” as a motivator though, with the tradition still being relatively new for a tradition, having been adopted by Pitt in 2007.
The Pitt students who invented the tradition, Justin Acierno and Corey Hartman, graduated in 2007 and 2011. The last time Pitt and WVU played in football was the 2011 season.
In comparison, WVU’s tradition is much older with it featuring pregame since 1972 and now is played after every home win as well.
The two rivals are set to hear Sweet Caroline during the third quarter of the Backyard Brawl on September 1st at 7:00 p.m. at Acrisure Stadium.