WPTS-FM originally evolved from WPGH, an AM carrier current station that broadcast to the Pitt Student Union and dormitories. WPGH was started in the fall of 1957 by 12 students, including Adrian Cronauer, whose experiences in Vietnam were made famous by Robin Williams in the movie Good Morning, Vietnam. Since then, WPGH is now the call letters of the Fox TV station in Pittsburgh. The push to get an FM station began in the fall of 1977 when Pitt requested a space on the commercial FM broadcast band. Because the Federal Communications Commission was concerned that the move of WPTS to FM might set an unfavorable precedent for other non-commercial stations seeking to make a similar move, Pitt had to reassure the FCC that WPTS was a unique case. As a result, WPTS was granted a class D license with a radiating power of 10W in the fall of 1984, the last 10W station to be licensed by the FCC. The station was originally at 98.5 until 1994, when it moved to the current frequency.
After a brief reduction in power in parts of 2005 and 2006 at the request of the FCC, WPTS acquired a new directional antenna in the summer of 2006 to reduce interference with a commercial station in the north-west. The new antenna increased the range of the station in almost all directions.
In 2009, 2012, and 2013 WPTS was nominated as one of the five to ten finalists for the mtvUWoodie Award for best college radio station in the United States.
WPTS has conducted a variety of successful and award winning promotions. The "Moustache Challenge" was a group collaborative effort created by a number of WPTS-FM station staff in 2006 with the idea to see who might grow the most impressive moustache over the month of November. The idea is based on Jay Della Valle's The Glorious Mustache Challenge and the competition was open to anyone at the University of Pittsburgh. The promotion won the 2007 College Broadcasters, Inc. National Student Production Award for "Best Station Promotion". This contest followed the 2005 "Egg Hunt" contest, which won the 2006 College Broadcasters, Inc. National Student Production Award for "Best Station Promotion".