DETROIT — The Pitt football players have known since March that defensive coordinator Randy Bates spent much of 2019 battling cancer.
Keeping it “in the family,” as Bates told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for a story that ran on Friday morning, meant that they didn’t get to talk about what it meant so see the leader of their defense battle cancer treatments and continue to run practices and meetings until after Friday’s 34-30 Pitt win over Eastern Michigan in the Quick Lane Bowl.
“We’ve been trying to pick Coach Bates up every single day,” senior cornerback Dane Jackson said. “He comes in with the same mindset. So how can we be down if he has the same mindset, going through that?”
Fellow senior Damar Hamlin said that Bates battling through the disease was an inspiration to the team throughout 2019.
“To me personally, I’ve been knowing the whole time what he was dealing with,” Hamlin said. “Just seeing him the day after his treatments and stuff, being with us the day after he was going through all that, it just shows you that he’s just resilient. If he could be here and go through that, I’m not going to complain about my hamstring hurting or my shoulder hurting a little bit. It just makes you want to be a little bit more tougher and play for him.”
Bates’ defense finished the season as one of the best in the country. His unit currently is tied for the NCAA lead in sacks and entered play on Thursday as No. 11 in the country in total yards per game.
Bates was nominated as a finalist for the Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant coach.