Not marked "Mitre" or "Gilbert"


In 1982, The University of Pittsburgh Rugby Club brought some unusual warm-up equipment to a game against Juniata College. What did they bring?

A. Jet Packs
B. Fluffy Pink Tutus
C. A bag of live Rattlesnakes
D. Severed Human Heads

Answer: Severed Human Heads.

In an effort to prove their studliness, the Pitt Boys kicked around preserved human heads from the school of dentistry during warmups. As a result, they were banished from campus sports for eight years, all the players were suspended, and two had criminal charges brought against them.

(My thanks to John "Montana" Thomas for alerting me to this one. By the way, I confirmed this with a U of Pittsburgh alumni and rugby player I met one day. He was understandably reluctant to furnish details when I told him I wanted to document this on a web site. - Wes)

But the U of Pittsburgh Rugby Club was hardly innovative...

After he was dead, the body of Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, was dug up, and his head was used as a football in Westminster Hall. Since that incident, an English clergyman kept Cromwell's head, refusing to return it to the "authorities" because of the indignities that it had suffered earlier. (From "Ripley's Believe It or Not.")

In perhaps the first international fixtures of any of the football codes, in the Middle Ages the townsmen of Cheshire were known to play with the Danish. Unfortunately for the Danes concerned, they were dead at the time. Being competitive types, the Cheshiremen cut off their heads and kicked them about for sport. (Anthony Mann, from the Manchester Guardian, 11/13/98)




4/26/16: Clarification from an unnamed Pitt graduate who would like to set the record straight!

"I recently came across your page “The Human Head as Football” and would like to offer a correction to the article that is of importance mostly to University of Pittsburgh fans: references to “University of” should be deleted. It was NOT the “University of Pittsburgh Rugby Club” who committed the offenses stated in your page.  It was members of the “Oakland Rugby Club.”  This may seem like splitting hairs, and the offenses were committed by Pitt students, but by a club that had no University of Pittsburgh status, and off campus. The Snickers post card just calls the team the “Pittsburgh Rugby Club” – no reference to “University.”  

From the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, June 2, 1982: The university said at the time, and repeated yesterday, that the Oakland Rugby Club has no affiliation with the school.  The rugby team lost its university sanction a year ago because of an undisclosed incident.  

Additionally, the sanctions imposed (players involved barred for life from sanctioned games, six month suspension for the club, official reprimand, and 18 months probation for the club) came from the Midwest Rugby Football Union and not the University of Pittsburgh.  Two students were forced to withdraw from Pitt.  

Readers can verify this for themselves by going here. It will bring up a list of all the newspaper images that relate to this story.  

I hope this information helps."