Fred Mazurek (2011)

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 a team that finished the season 9-1 and was ranked third in the nation did not go to a bowl game.

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


Mazurek was a three-sport star at Redstone High School in the late 1950's and early 1960's. He excelled on the gridiron, on the hardwood and on the baseball diamond.

Those days of playing for the Black Hawks are etched in Mazurek's mind.

"We had a tremendous football coach," Mazurek said proudly. "Joe Bosnic was really a tough guy and we ended up with only 18 players on our team. We had about 180 in our senior class and we were playing teams like Johnstown and Uniontown and all those teams that had more players than we did. In fact, when we were scrimmaging to prepare for a game, we could only scrimmage a half a line because we didn't have enough players.

"We did some things from an offensive point of view that were certainly very innovative. We ran a belly series in high school, which didn't come into vogue until after that. It was an innovative offense and the kids had to be tough. We did quite well. My senior year we were 7-1-1 and we had tied Johnstown, 14-14, and I think that was what kept us out of the WPIAL playoffs."

A football injury almost derailed Mazurek's career.

During the last game of his sophomore year against German Township, Mazurek was carried off the field. He was near death on an operating table. He was semi-conscious for 12 days. He underwent a five-hour operation.

He wore a modified baseball batting helmet when he played basketball that season.

Mazurek was a guard and was named All-Section for three consecutive years.

"Duke offered me a basketball scholarship and Fordham, as well, when I came out of high school," Mazurek stated. "I averaged like 26 point per game my last year and I think I was the second leading scorer in the county. Buddy Quertinmont, who went to West Virginia, averaged almost 30 points a game that year. I played in some All-Star games with guys who had college basketball scholarships. We played in the Monessen Tournament and I remember I was the MVP in that tournament."

In baseball, Mazurek was a four-year regular for Redstone who played many positions before settling in as an outfielder.

In 1959, Mazurek pitched Uniontown Post 47 to a 10-4 win to clinch the state VFW baseball title. The losing pitcher in that tilt was Lew Krausse, who signed a contract with the Kansas City Athletics and went on to become a successful major league pitcher.

Mazurek played for the Pals Club in the Fayette County League. He was a member of the All-West Junior American Legion team for two years.

"Joe Namath and I ended up being selected the quarterbacks on the Big 33 Pennsylvania All-Stars," Mazurek recalled. "Interestingly enough both he and I were baseball players and we both got selected to the American Legion All-Star team and so we opted out of the Big 33 game to play baseball."

The high school exploits of Mazurek led to quite a bit of recognition.

In 1960, he was selected to the Associated Press All-State football squad with only a one-point difference in the balloting between Mazurek and Beaver Falls' Namath. Mazurek was also a Sporting News National High School All-American football selection. He was also named the Most Valuable Player in the WPIAL. Mazurek was one of 12 players named to Teen Magazine's All-American team and garnered similar honors from Scholastic Magazine.

Mazurek was a highly recruited athlete when he graduated from Redstone in 1961.

"All the Big 10 schools and Eastern schools," Mazurek said. "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."

Coach John Michelosen out-recruited 80 schools for the football services of the 5-10, 180 pound Mazurek.

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 in 1963.

"I think what helped us were the red shirt guys," Mazurek reflected. "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 10 times. 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.

"After the Navy game, the next week against Syracuse I won national back of the week honors from the AP," Mazurek explained.

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

Pitt's game with Penn State scheduled for Nov. 23 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, but they turned down the bid.

Pitt awarded the 1963 team watches inscribed "uninvited" and they went down in history as the "No Bowl Team."

Mazurek's senior year was a disappointment as Pitt fell to a 3-5-2 record. For Mazurek, it was an injury-plagued season. He spent almost the entire season recuperating from injuries. He had the distinction of being the second Pitt player to gain over 3,000 yards in three seasons.

In 1965, he played in the East-West game and teamed with Navy's Staubach. Mazurek scored the only touchdown for the East as they fell to the West squad, 11-7.

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, Coach Bobby Lewis was just a great guy."

In his senior season at Pitt, Mazurek batted .465 to finish second in the NCAA batting race and he made All-American as a center fielder.

He passed on several chances to play professional baseball and signed with the NFL.

Mazurek played two seasons with the NFL Washington Redskins and completed his master's degree at Catholic University.

Since 1989, Mazurek has served as Tax Director for Beckman Coulter Inc. and is a licensed attorney with the State Bar of California.

Mazurek, 68, is living in LaQuinta, Calif., with his wife Sue, who is a daughter of former Pitt Coach John Michelosen. They have two sons, David and Marty.

Mazurek was honored in 1991 to be named the University of Pittsburgh Awardee of Distinction by fellow lettermen and he was inducted into the Mon Valley Hall of Fame in 2002.


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