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Micro-column: Let Pitt-Penn State gamesmanship begin

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.”

Here is a video of our exchange.

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.

Comments

  1. JoeBucco says:

    Another feature request, the ability to filter DK’s blog posts by category. Would be nice to have one place where only Pirates articles live, another easy add in WordPress.

  2. TK says:

    “But is it outright stunning?”

    Yes. When I first heard about it, my first reaction was: Did Joe Pa die or, even though I had not heard anything about his health, was he too gravely ill to not be able to raise an objection.

    That might not be the nicest reaction to have. But it was probably the same reaction alot of people had. Although they are too nice to say it.

  3. jefft says:

    DK–this is fabulous news. Being a Pitt grad, I always figured that the rivalry would not restart until Paterno left (after all, everything is PSU’s fault lol). Can’t wait & hope it goes on more than two years.

  4. CDBrewer says:

    Okay, from the other side of the aisle…
    I was in section in at Beaver Stadium for close to 30 years…I saw a sophomore Marino beat us on a bootleg down to my left. I miss Pitt/PSU.
    Michigan State was no replacement, and Wisconsin won’t be either.
    Hell, I miss the script Pitt and mustard yellow.

    That said, PSU has little to gain from this being a one-for-one deal. The Big East is awful and Pitt has had little national impact. It is like playing Rutgers with more risk to PSU.

    Also, it was really weird to see Pitt in September.

  5. Fat Jimmy says:

    It’s always about the money. My guess is that Pitt made some type of concession on how the gate receipts are split or is making some type of one-time payout to PSU.

  6. Hail2Pitt says:

    West Virginia,

    Listen, this is hard for us too. When Penn State, scared of commitment and Walt Harris, left us at the altar, you were there to pick up the pieces. You sent all of your mulleted fans to Heinz Field in their hunting gear, and we thought, maybe, just maybe, we could learn to hate again. And then we visited you in Morgantown, and your 8 year olds cussed at us, and your townies harrassed us in the annals of Puskar Stadium, and we fell, head over heels, in hate with you. Your players were thugs and degenerates, your coaches were egomaniacs, senile country bumpkins, and now public drunks. And your fans…oh your fans were 100 times worse. We can’t describe our gratitude for the lengths you went to to give us a hate to believe in again. You gave us some great memories, and we can never thank you enough for 2007.

    So, that is what makes this so hard. See…Penn State is back in town. And they want us back. And goshdarnnit, we want them too. We tried to forget them, to move on to a new life, but it’s Penn State. Our hate has always belonged to them. It’s just…it’s just the way things are meant to be. They can spell, and they have all of their teeth, and…I mean we complete each other’s vile insults. They complete us. I’m sorry, West Virginia. I hope this break up can be amicable, and we can remain enemies. Just nothing more than that. I know you Hoopies can’t read this, but thank you for being so understanding. We wish you all the worst.

    Sincerely,

    The University of Pittsburgh

    P.S. Hail to Pitt

  7. Justin S. says:

    This absolutely a result of PSU now needing the rivalry more than before. That’s not to say that PSU will depend on this rivalry, but they have now reached a point where it might be useful for them. Before now, it was of no use to them. Should have never stopped, but let’s all be happy it’s back…

  8. BDeuink says:

    I can’t agree with you more Dejan. As a PITT fan, I’m really excited for the renewal of this rivalry. It can’t hurt.

  9. Hamburger Jones says:

    DK,

    As a Pitt alum, I am hugely excited about the resumption of the Pitt-PSU series but–and not to sound crass–I did not see this coming until after Joe Paterno left PSU, one way or another. Everyone knows the story about Pitt sabotaging Paterno’s East Coast all sports league back in the 80′s (would Pitt rethink that decision if they knew then what they know now?) and it seemed like JoePa was determined to carry that grudge all the way to the end.

    Regardless, this is huge news for college football in Pennsylvania and all we can hope for is that this is not just a 2 year and out deal. The last thing we need is the state government getting involved, a la Virginia’s governor forcing the ACC to take Va. Tech when they really wanted Syracuse.

    Hail to Pitt!

  10. DFlash02 says:

    DK – Heartily agree that the teams never should have stopped playing each other. Absolutely awful that we had to miss over a decade of this rivalry.

    I certainly agree with your latter point about PSU as well – once Paterno leaves (and, if he’s still around, Tom Bradley takes over), it would be tough to keep the same energy around the Lions. Even though Bradley is regarded as an incredible recruiter, it is no secret that the Lions have struggled to recruit top-tier talent to Happy Valley (and with good reason – have you been there? There’s nothing to do but shuck corn and tip cows. Oh yea, and watch football.). The rivalry will benefit both sides greatly.

    Fantastic news for Western and Central Pennsylvania!

  11. Rich says:

    Football fortunes run in cycles. With conference play, neither has an edge to gain unless this game is considered a tie breaker of sorts. PSU by 2016 may have more in common with Indiana and Northwestern on the field than the Michigan teams, Nebraska, Wisconsin and the recovering OSU. Of course, this may also be the only way PSU could ‘buy’ a spot on the Pitt Basketball schedule.

  12. LikeaBugonaRug says:

    HAIL TO PITT!!! About time for this!

  13. CDBrewer says:

    Hail2Pitt,

    I LOVED that post, despite being from the other side. It was perfect.

    That said, playing Pitt in september felt like my first Christmas in California…I wasn’t supposed to be in shorts. It just isn’t the same.

    I mean no slight to Pittsburgh football – Sherrill, Marino, Ironhead, Billy Wallace (wr from the mid 80′s), Eric Seaman (TE from the late 80′s), Dickerson’s scrambling…I remember the fervor and the players I came to know through friends.
    Pitt and PSU understood each other. And while the hate was true, if you guys beat us, I was praying you won your bowl game to justify our rivalry as being as valuable as the Iron Bowl or whatever.

    Fact is, we aren’t there anymore. That is a shame. That boat sailed, and I wish we could get it back.

    Moving forward, I would imagine Joe’s animosity had as much to do with that imbalance of home games through the years, not just the Eastern Sports League.

    I’m glad Pitt’s on the schedule, but it just won’t be the same until you are back at the end of the schedule.

  14. Chuck Snow says:

    Great news! As a young man in the 70″s I remember a lot of great Pitt Penn State games. If the Pirates continue to get better it will feel like the 70″s again!

  15. Eric Bowser says:

    Great news to at least get these two games on the schedule but what a crock of you know what for Penn State to avoid PITT. This continues to be about PITT’s refusal to join the once lucid Joe Paterno in some never formed football conference and how the now decrepit man holds a grudge better than he can coach football players.

    Sad considering the numerous Penn State fans who want this football rivalry to return.

  16. Jason says:

    Congrats Pitt, you guys finally have a sell-out on your schedule. I’m sure your athletic department is already coming up with their plans to make us buy tix to your OOC and garbage Big East games too, like last time. This whole ‘rivalry’ cracks me up because we’ve moved on to bigger and better things, yet you guys still yell “Penn State sucks” at your basketball games. You guys care about us way too much, while we clearly have bigger fish to fry. So go ahead guys, puff your chests out and make every ‘JoePa is old’ joke you can think of, and we’ll sell out your stadium for you in 5 years.

  17. rwshelton2 says:

    Pumped about these 2 games. Sounds like PSU is playing games to leverage in the 2 home – 1 away pattern they wanted all along…

  18. [...] Pittsburgh papers, there’s the stuff about how it should still be played every year. That the series should never have ended. And that this took long enough to happen — even for just a 2-game series. Money quote from [...]

  19. Dave S says:

    Not playing was all about Paterno’s vengeance for not being invited into the Big East way back when, because PSU’s basketball was so bad. He had dreams of a grand eastern league to rival the Big Ten, and that fell apart when Pitt joined the Big East.

    I don’t see how PSU fans can think this is not a boost to PSU. It has been embarrassing to see them play East Overshoe U. every year, these tiny schools to pad their schedule that everyone knows are not real schools.

  20. Mark says:

    Dave S.,

    You just don’t understand… Our (PSU’s) most recently scheduled games against East Overshoe U. have dates of September 10, 2016 and September 16, 2017.

  21. Brian says:

    “East Overshoe U”… nice. I guess when Pitt plays Buffalo, Ohio U and Youngstown State it doesn’t really count. My bad.

    You people are unreal.

  22. WVU24Pitt6_Rhodes says:

    Dear University of Pittsburgh,

    Don’t worry about it, we understand. Our victories over Penn State in ’84 and ’88 meant more than beating your raggedy football team a hundred times over. You’ll be back, you glorious, overrated, dung-eating ho.

    Sincerely,
    West Virginia University

  23. JoPa took his ball and went home. As far as I’m concerned, let him stay home. It’s nice that we can play them for two years, but begging to continue the series makes no sense. The Penn State Athletic Dept has stated that it’s much more important that they cater to their fans across the country than re establish an in-state rivalry. Good for them – I hope their able to get Michigan or Michigan State or OSU to want to consider them the “hated rival”; assuming that they even want to have a rivalry game each year. It’s fun to hate our “country-fied” neighbors to the south (they keep our Dental School graduates in business!). Let’s concentrate on getting our program to Top 10 status. If they decide some time in the future to ask again, let’s be in a “no big deal” position, and able to dictate the terms!

  24. Kevin says:

    As an objective observer who went to IUP instead but loved the rivalry, I’m glad to see this game back.

    Jason- believe me when I say that PSU does not have “bigger fish to fry”. The Lions do no better in the Big 18 than does Pitt in the Big East. Pitt and PSU are very much on the same level- two programs with great traditions, both glad when they move up the coaches poll into the top 25 on reputation alone.

    This is a great rivalry between two schools who can do a lot better- and will again. It was time- the prayers of all Pennsylvanians were answered.

  25. Scott says:

    As a college football fan, this is the best news in ages. Wisconsin and Mich state will never be that important to Nits. Nebraska has already paired themselves to Iowa. OSU and Michigan will never care about PSU like they do about each other. Pitt and will always be the great rivalry. Penn State could be as big beneficiaries by playing basketball at Pitt.

    While raised around Penn State, I am an Arkansas Razorback. We have the same situation with Texas. While I know the move to the SEC was best for our program, the same passion will never be there for Ole Miss, Alabama, and LSU. Heres to reviving traditions.

  26. Teddy Kwalick says:

    I just hope JoePa is around to see the game in ’16 (but I don’t mean on the field). I agree with those who think it will be weird to see these teams play in September. 1974 (or was it ’75) in 3 Rivers and 1977 (or was it ’78?) at Pitt Stadium are 2 of the coldest experiences in my life. Would gladly bundle up and get out there again in November!!

  27. lyn kline says:

    This is a great thing for us PSU fans. But, I take exception to the typical Pitt fans who think their program will benefit due to this game coming back around. It won’t.

    I do rememebr the games, andwe all rememebr if we try Pitt’s arrogance in the old days of not wanting to come play in State college, and then the 70s and 80s and 90s, lots of fun there. Relax kids, take your shot at us.

    Best of luck to you.

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