MENOMONY, Wis.–As a college student and junior reporter for the student newspaper, then as local newspaper reporter and sports information director at UW-Stout, Layne Pitt has covered nearly 2,000 varsity sports events for every team over the past nearly 45 years.
He goes way back. In the late 1970s, he covered a football game celebrating the inaugural 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 numbers, titles, All-Americans, record-breaking performances, or incredible shots or plays. During his last 28 years as SID, he has worked late nights, worked weekends, met media deadlines and focused during double overtime games to celebrate the efforts of UW-Stout’s hard-working athletes, coaches and staff.
With his quiet, understated manner and steady presence, along with his lived Blue Devils history, he has become an institution around the South Campus track and field complex. He will leave a void when he retires on Wednesday 12th October.
“Layne is held in high esteem across the country by everyone who has worked with him over the years, but especially by the Blue Devil coaches and the student-athletes he has supported and represented with his amazing work,” said Duey Naatz, sports director.
“Layne is a true professional in all aspects of his job. His knowledge and history of UW stout athletics and ability to promote UW stout with the stories of our student athletes is remarkable,” said Naatz.
Pitt will be replaced by Casey Parrott, Director of Athletic Communications, who began work on September 16.
“On behalf of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, we are very grateful to Layne’s 28 years as sports information director at UW-Stout,” said Matt Stanek, assistant media relations officer for the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. “We can’t thank him enough for his endless hours of promotion for Blue Devil’s athletics division. Layne will be missed and we wish him the very best in his retirement.”
After nearly three decades at UW-Stout Athletics, the numbers add up: three chancellors, three athletic directors, 53 head coaches, and thousands of student athletes. He led a team 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 textbooks and statistical archives and much more.
“My student assistants were outstanding. We started with a small team making paper statistics. Now, with the expansion of the website, we have over 20 students on the team taking care of statistics, live stream production, photography (still and video). , office work and writing,” Pitt said.
He has enjoyed meeting his student staff and student athletes who visit the SID office to chat or hang out after games. For the past several years, he’s kept a jar of Starburst candy on his desk as an informal invitation to drop by. “It’s a really good meeting place,” he said.
UW-Stout has 19 teams, a number that has grown quite a bit since he took office as SID in Dunn County in 1994,” Pitt said.
When he started as an SID in 1994, he didn’t have email. Staff reported Blue Devil athletics news to the media via faxes and phone calls. Game statistics were kept with paper, pencil, and typewriter because early office computers were not portable.
However, the change did not last long. Less than a year later, with the help of Don Steffen, the university editor, he began creating the first track and field website, starting with team schedules and rosters.
“The school had some kind of web presence back then, so I just jumped on that wagon. We knew this was the future. It just kept thriving, and before you knew it we had a full-fledged website,” Pitt said. “The internet was probably our biggest change. We are actually our own media company with the website. You can find pretty much everything you need on these pages.”
Pitt, who has a degree in photography, has shot photos of Blue Devils athletics throughout his career. He stopped using film around 2001. “The immediate effect of having a digital image ready before the game is over is amazing,” he said.
“If someone told me that I could only do one of the tasks in my job, it would be photography. I love shooting games, filming feature films and being in the studio,” he said, noting that he’s progressed from being the only athletics photographer to hiring student photographers for the last 15 years. “It’s great to see them grow as photographers.”
Over the past 15 years, social media platforms like 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 the history of Blue Devil
He’s seen a lot of Blue Devil history. However, the period from 2000 to 2009 stands out. The football team was 10-0 in the 2000 regular season after losing 2-8 the year before. The women’s basketball team won four conference titles and made the national tournament under coach Mark Thomas. The ice hockey, softball and golf teams also shone.
“We hosted conferences and NCAA tournaments like never before. It was a whirlwind of activity from one event to the next. The gyms and arenas were full,” he said.
“I’ve always loved history and Stout has an amazing history, both overall and with the sports programming.”
He appreciates the athletics directors he has worked under – Steve Terry, Joe Harlan and Naatz – and the coaches, staff and athletes he has worked with, including current assistant athletics director Erin Sullivan.
He has also enjoyed watching athletes succeed on and off the field and getting to know them during their years at UW-Stout.
Notable achievements include Terry Anders, who won six national sprint titles; Brad O’Connell’s distinguished baseball career; Jeff Hazuga and Tony Beckham move to the NFL; Laura Verdegan plays a basketball game on a Wednesday night and wins the WIAC indoor triple jump title the next weekend; Kelsey Duoss and Julia Hirssig Receive All-America Women’s Basketball Honors; and Amy Jamieson, who received first-team All-Conference honors in tennis, basketball and softball that same school year.
Pitt has seen football records passed by Tim Peterson and then eclipsed by Matt Bunyan. Current Blue Devils quarterback Sean Borgerding is likely to break many of Bunyan’s records.
“Layne was great at his sports coverage both in-season and off-season,” said Borgerding, a Spring Valley senior. “He’s always working hard to come up with post-game stories about different things that happen in the off-season.”
Borgerding said Pitt’s support of athletes goes well beyond coverage of games, such as nominating athletes for conference and national awards and honors and then highlighting their special achievements.
career as a journalist
Prior to his hiring as SID, Pitt was a sports editor, editor and 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 included chairing the Blue Devil Hall of Fame Committee, being a member of the Chancellor’s Athletic Advisory Committee, and working with the student chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
In 2019 he received the Chancellor’s Prize for outstanding achievements at the UW-Stout.
Pitt was named Midwest Division III Sports Information Director of the Year by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, and from 2005 to 2008 he was the SID for the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association while also serving as the SID of UW-Stout.
He comes from Bonduel and has lived in Menomonie since arriving as a student in 1978. After earning an associate degree in photography from Milwaukee Area Technical College, he joined UW-Stout. He was a contributor to the student newspaper Stoutonia and graduated from UW-Stout in 1981 with a degree in Industrial Education. His original plan was to become a high school teacher.
Pitt and his wife Laura, also a UW Stout graduate who works at the university’s Child and Family Study Center, have four adult children and three grandchildren.
“Laura has always been my support,” Pitt said. “I certainly couldn’t have done it without her.”