Alumni Come Together to Honor the Voice of Pitt Athletics

Alumni Come Together to Honor the Voice of Pitt Athletics

If you have tuned into a Pitt football or basketball radio broadcast anytime in the last 50 years, you know his voice.

“Bill Hillgrove was my eyes and ears for Pitt sports when I was a kid in Johnstown,” said Mark Duca (A&S ’90). “I grew up worshiping him. He’s a legend.”

Bill Hillgrove has been part of the Pitt basketball broadcast team since 1969 and started doing Pitt football a year later. Now, thanks to Mark and several other Pitt alumni and friends, Bill’s legend includes a scholarship in his name that will be awarded annually to a varsity athlete studying, what else but, broadcasting.

A young Bill Hillgrove stands atop the broadcast booth of Pitt Stadium with the Cathedral of Learning in the background.

“It was the first… maybe second… time in my life I was speechless,” said Bill Hillgrove thinking back to the surprise party at which Mark and his co-conspirators shocked the 78-year-old by announcing the scholarship. “It was emotional, it really was.” (The other time Hillgrove was speechless was when Tony Dorsett broke the all-time career Division I rushing record during a game at Navy.)

Mark travels to most away Pitt football and basketball games where he often sees Bill on the plane or hotel as they scurry from Pitt games on Saturday to Steelers games on Sunday for Bill to do the play-by- play and Mark to perform his duties as a Steelers team physician.

Mark says when he learned that Bill was about to hit 50 years of broadcasting Pitt sports, he and a few other faithful travelers decided to have a party; and when you have a party you need to have a gift. “That evolved into someone saying, ‘Hey, you know what would be a great idea for a present? Cementing and honoring his legacy with a scholarship,’” Mark said.

It only took a few phone calls to raise the minimum $150,000 donation needed to create a named scholarship in Athletics. Former Pitt Football player and current Pitt broadcaster Pat Bostick (A&S ’10, CGS ’11) helped pull together the scholarship. Pat is the Associate Athletic Director for Major Gifts. He describes Bill as being a humble family man who’s always willing to help—especially those just starting out in broadcasting.

“The scholarship will serve well to honor Bill and help those who want to follow in his footsteps,” said Pat who notes it is still possible for fans of Bill Hillgrove and Pitt to contribute to the scholarship fund.

Bill Hillgrove accepts the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame “Chris Schenkel Award” from ESPN host Chris Fowler in 2007.

Bill looks forward to meeting the scholarship recipients to impart some words of wisdom. “You can learn by listening and watching the great ones but don’t imitate them. Be yourself,” said Bill who adds that students need to learn all aspects of the industry to be more versatile to future employers. 

And maybe he should remind them to not expect to spend 50 years with one team. 

“When I first started to do the basketball games in 1969 I said to myself, ‘This would be great if I could do this gig for the next 20 years.’ I didn’t envision a half century.”

Watch a video tribute to Bill Hillgrove 
Created for the surprise party where the scholarship was officially announced.

Contributions can be made here.