SELINSGROVE, Pa. – The Susquehanna University community is mourning the loss of legendary football coach Bob Pittello ’51, who passed away Thursday night at Pottsville Hospital where he was being treated for blood clots in his arm. Pittello, a member of the SU Sports Hall of Fame, was both a player and coach for the Crusaders for nearly five decades and was active in the collegiate football world for more than 50 years.
“There was not a person on Earth who met Coach Pittello who did not love him,” current SU head football coach Steve Briggs said. “He said many times that he was never blessed to have children of his own so God blessed him to be a football coach and have thousands of sons. He touched many, many lives as a coach for over 50 years. He was Susquehanna University and is as big a part of SU football as any person in its history.”
Pittello had just completed his 19th season in 2010 as an offensive line coach at SU, making him actively involved with the football program for 48 of the past 63 seasons.
The Mount Carmel, Pa. native had been with the team as either a player or a coach longer than anyone in the history of the program and was the only player in team history to have his jersey number retired. The University retired his No. 66 during the 1998 season. In addition, in 2001, the football locker room was formally named in Pittello’s honor with a commemorative plaque posted outside the room.
Pittello’s playing career at Susquehanna began in 1948. He was the starting guard for the Maroon and Orange under co-head coaches Amos Alonzo Stagg, Jr. and Sr. Pittello began his coaching career with Susquehanna in 1953 under Stagg, Jr. and went on to serve as an assistant coach with the program under five different head coaches, non-successively.
During his tenures, he helped guide SU to two undefeated seasons and three MAC Northern Division Championships. Most recently, he was a member of the coaching staff that helped lead the Crusaders to the 2009 Liberty League championship. That performance awarded Briggs and his staff Coaching Staff of the Year honors.
In 1985, he was reunited with former SU head coach Jim Garrett at Columbia University as an assistant to Garrett. Pittello also served three years as an assistant under legendary prep coach Joe “Jazz” Diminick at Pittello’s alma mater, Mount Carmel Area High School.
President L. Jay Lemons reflected, “Coach Bob is among the finest men I have had the privilege of knowing. This is a great loss for the Susquehanna community and for all who knew him. He was committed to more than coaching the sport of football. Coach Bob was committed to helping young men grow and succeed not only in football but also in life. He was coached by and learned from Amos Alonzo Stagg Jr. and Sr. and certainly deserves to be remembered as one of the greatest influences on Susquehanna football. On a personal level, I will miss Coach Bob very much. He was a great friend and provided wise counsel to me. During the past several seasons before every game we shared a hug and did the same at the end of each contest. Regardless of whether we won or lost, our words were the same. We simply said we loved one another. Coach Bob Pittello will be missed from the Susquehanna sidelines and from all of our lives. We are all the better for his love and devotion.”
Heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with his longtime friend, Mary Lou McCann, and their many friends who considered them to be family. There will never be anyone like Bob Pittello. His big heart and outstanding talent have meant so much to generations of Crusader athletes and the entire Susquehanna community. He will long be remembered with smiles and oft-told stories of his successes on and off the field, and how he positively influenced young people’s lives.
A viewing will be held on January 13, from 9 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. at the Joseph J. Stutz Funeral Home located on 40 South Market Street in Mount Carmel, Pa. A funeral mass will be held at 2 p.m. at the Divine Redeemer Church on 438 West Ave. in Mount Carmel with burial at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Mount Carmel immediately following.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Susquehanna University Development Office, 514 University Avenue, Selinsgrove, PA 17870.