Longtime UW-Stout Sports Information Director Pitt To Retire
MENOMONIE, Wis.–As a college student and cub reporter for the student newspaper, then as a local newspaper reporter and sports information director at UW-Stout, Layne Pitt has covered close to 2,000 university athletic contests for every team during the past nearly 45 years.
He goes way back. In the late 1970s, he covered a football game that celebrated the first inductees into the Blue Devil Hall of Fame. Today, the Hall of Fame has about 200 members.
Over the years Pitt has created his own Blue Devil legacy, but it’s never been about the numbers, titles, All-Americans, record-setting performances or incredible shots or plays. For the past 28 years as SID, he has worked late, worked weekends, met media deadlines and stayed focused during double overtime games to help celebrate the efforts of the hard-working athletes, coaches and staff at UW-Stout.
In his soft-spoken, unassuming way and steady presence, along with his lived history of the Blue Devils, he has become an institution around the athletics complex on south campus. He’ll leave a void when he retires Wednesday, Oct. 12.
“Layne is well-respected across the country by all who have worked with him over the years, but especially by the Blue Devil coaches and the student athletes who he has supported and represented with his great work,” said Duey Naatz, athletic director.
“Layne is a true professional in all aspects of his work. His knowledge and history of UW-Stout athletics and the ability to promote UW-Stout with the stories of our student athletes is remarkable,” Naatz said.
Replacing Pitt will be Casey Parrott, director of athletic communications, who began work Sept. 16.
“On behalf of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, we are extremely appreciative of Layne’s 28 years as sports information director at UW-Stout,” said Matt Stanek, assistant commissioner for Media Relations at the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. “We cannot thank him enough for his limitless hours of providing publicity for the Blue Devil athletics department. Layne will be missed and we wish him the very best in his retirement.”
After nearly three decades with UW-Stout Athletics, the numbers add up: three chancellors, three athletic directors, 53 head coaches and thousands of student athletes. He led a staff that has produced more than 25,000 stories, at least 9,000 athlete portraits and tens of thousands of action shots — along with creating videos, maintaining school record books and statistical archives and much more.
“My student staff has been outstanding. We started off with a small staff doing paper stats. Now, with the expansion of the website, we have upwards of 20 students on staff to handle stats, live stream production, photography (still and video) , office work and writers,” Pitt said.
He has enjoyed getting to know his student staff and student athletes, who visit the SID office to chat or hang around after games. Over the last several years he has kept a jar of Starburst candy on his desk as an informal invitation to stop by. “It’s a really good gathering spot,” he said.
UW-Stout has 19 teams, a number that has grown by several since he took over as SID in 1994. “Over my sports career, I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I have stood for the national anthem all around the Dunn County area,” Pitt said.
When he began as SID in 1994, he didn’t have email. The staff reported Blue Devil athletics news to media via faxes and phone calls. Game statistics were kept with paper, pencil and typewriter because the early office computers weren’t portable.
Change didn’t take long, however. Less than a year later, he began creating athletics’ first website with help from Don Steffen, university editor, starting with team schedules and rosters.
“The school had some sort of web presence at the time, so I just jumped on that wagon. We knew it was the future. It just continued to blossom, and before you knew it we had a full-blown site,” Pitt said . “The web has probably been our biggest change. We are actually our own media outlet with the website. Just about everything you need is on those pages.”
Pitt, who has a degree in photography, has shot photos of Blue Devil athletics throughout his career. He stopped using film around 2001. “The immediate impact of having a digital image ready for use before the game is over is amazing,” he said .
“If someone would tell me I could do only one of the duties in my job, it would be photography. I love shooting games, feature stories and in the studio,” he said, noting that he went from the only athletics photographer to hiring student photographers the past 15 years. “It’s great to see them grow as photographers.”
In the past 15 years, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have brought new challenges to the job but also new and more immediate ways to reach the media and Blue Devil fans, he said.
Witness to Blue Devil history
He has seen plenty of Blue Devil history. The period from 2000 to 2009, however, stands out. The football team was 10-0 in the regular season in 2000, after going 2-8 the year before. The women’s basketball team won four conference titles and made the national tournament under Coach Mark Thomas. The hockey, softball and golf teams also shined.
“We hosted conference and NCAA tournaments like we never have. It was a whirlwind of activity, going from one event to another. The gyms and arenas were packed,” he said.
“I have always loved history, and Stout has an amazing history, both overall and with the sports programs.”
He’s appreciated the athletics directors he’s worked under — Steve Terry, Joe Harlan and Naatz — and the coaches, staff and athletes he’s worked with, including current Deputy Director of Athletics Erin Sullivan.
He’s also enjoyed seeing athletes succeed, both on and off the field, and getting to know them during their years at UW-Stout.
Memorable accomplishments include Terry Anders winning six national sprint titles; Brad O’Connell’s outstanding baseball career; Jeff Hazuga and Tony Beckham moving on to the NFL; Laura Verdegan playing a basketball game on a Wednesday night and winning the WIAC indoor triple jump title the next weekend; Kelsey Duoss and Julia Hirssig earning All-America women’s basketball honors; and Amy Jamieson earning first team all-conference honors in tennis, basketball and softball all in the same school year.
Pitt has seen football passing records set by Tim Peterson and then eclipsed by Matt Bunyan. The current Blue Devil quarterback, Sean Borgerding, likely will break many of Bunyan’s records.
“Layne has been awesome in his coverage of sports both in season and out of season,” said Borgerding, a senior from Spring Valley. “He’s always working hard to bring out stories after games to different things happening in the off season.”
Borgerding said Pitt’s support of athletes goes well beyond game coverage, such as nominating athletes for conference and national awards and honors, then highlighting their special achievements.
Started career as journalist
Prior to being hired as SID, Pitt was the sports editor, editor and a photojournalist for the local Dunn County News for 11 years. He then worked for UW-Stout Photographic Services for two years.
His work at UW-Stout has included being chairman of the Blue Devil Hall of Fame Committee, a member of the Chancellor’s Athletic Advisory Committee and working with the student chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
In 2019, he received the Chancellor’s Academic Staff Award for Excellence at UW-Stout.
Pitt has been honored as the Midwest Division III sports information director of the year by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, and from 2005 to 2008 he was SID for the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association while simultaneously serving as UW-Stout’s SID.
A native of Bonduel, he has lived in Menomonie since arriving as a student in 1978. He transferred to UW-Stout after earning an associate degree in photography at Milwaukee Area Technical College. He was on the staff of the Stoutonia student newspaper and graduated from UW-Stout in 1981 with a degree in industrial education. His original plan was to be a high school teacher.
Pitt and his wife, Laura, also a UW-Stout alum who works at the university’s Child and Family Study Center, have four grown children and three grandchildren.
“Laura has always been my support,” Pitt said. “I certainly could not have done this without her.”