If you haven’t heard, Pitt and Penn State will resume their football rivalry in 2016.
This is, of course, very big news with a very big wow factor.
But is it outright stunning?
It takes no more than a casual glance at Pitt’s program to see that it has everything to gain. Heinz Field will be packed, the rivalry will help with recruits, and some semblance of order will be restored after all the chaos of the past winter. Win, win, win. But then, this always has been the case. Although the Panthers and their followers denied, tried to instead emphasize the Backyard Brawl, it always has been Pitt that had by far the most to gain.
I’m not sure that’s the case anymore, if you think about it: Joe Paterno will not, contrary to all reasonable evidence, be at Penn State longer. And it’s never easy for a university to maintain that same aura once the icon is gone. Perhaps this is Tim Curley’s way of ensuring that the luster remains, in part, through the resumption of this magnificent rivalry. Or, it could be that they saw this as a long-term benefit to the Lions, as well. Or even a small show of respect for Pitt’s quality regular-season showings in the Big East over the years.
Whatever the case, shocking or not, it is tremendous news for the region’s college football fans, especially the older ones.
These schools never should have stopped playing each other.
UPDATE 5:24 p.m.: Just got back from Pitt’s news conference on the South Side, which is where I shot that pic up there of most media outlets covering the news conference.
So, is the rivalry renewed or not?
I asked Pederson if the schools would pursue playing on an annual basis beyond 2017, and he gave a fairly upbeat answer: “Well, Tim and have talked about continuing the conversations and looking out to the future. We’re certainly hopeful that we can continue to come up with ways to play. When this opportunity presented itself, we felt like, ‘Let’s get this done. Let’s get this on the schedule. Then we’ll begin to look at opportunities in the future.’ Tim and I have been longtime friends. We’re going to keep the dialogue going on this and, hopefully, this will be the start of good things.”
About 10 minutes later, the Twitter on my BlackBerry shows that Curley told the Trib’s Joe Starkey on The Fan that Penn State really has no interest in continuing the series beyond 2017.
Who to believe?
Sounds to me like some early gamesmanship on both sides, with Pitt showing its cards that it loves having Penn State back — Pederson was quick to not that Curley called him, not the other way around — and Penn State trying to maintain its hard-to-get face.