Now that Pitt and Penn State have agreed to renew their rivalry, if ever so briefly, it seems a perfect time to end my hiatus from blogging.
Either that, or the prolific Dejan Kovacevic has shamed me into it.
Actually, I have long been trying to figure out how to reinvent Sitting Ringside since leaving the Pitt football beat to become a columnist/enterprise reporter. So I welcome any reader comments on what you would like to see in commentary or links. Feel free to drop me a line with your suggestions by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 412-320-7812 or on Twitter @KGorman_Trib.
I shared my view of Tuesday’s announcement of a two-game series in 2016-17 with a column, The Rivalry: What took so long? It prompted plenty of responses, some ranging from why Penn Staters believe Pitt isn’t worthy of an annual game to Panthers fans blaming Joe Paterno for ruining the rivalry because of an old grudge.
Here’s something to consider: Over the past decade, the Pitt and Penn State football programs aren’t as far apart as you might think. Yes, PSU plays in a superior conference (Big Ten) than Pitt (Big East) but both are BCS-affiliated. In the past 10 years, Penn State is 79-45 and Pitt is 75-49. PSU has had three sub-.500 seasons (2001, ’03 and ’04) to Pitt’s two (’05, ’07) but the Nittany Lions also have played in more BCS bowls (two, Rose and Orange) than the Panthers (one, Fiesta). And it’s been relatively close the past three years (PSU 29-10, Pitt 27-12) and equal the past two (18-8).
Last year, Pitt finished 8-5, PSU 7-6.
As a Pittsburgh native and Penn State alum, I’m all for renewing the Pitt-Penn State rivalry — even if the 15-season hiatus between their last meeting, in 2000, and their next, in September 2016, helped the Backyard Brawl become a better rivalry.
Here’s a Q&A I had with Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson:
Do you think the hiatus in the rivalry had anything to do with forcing Penn State fans to buy a ticket package instead of selling single-game tickets?
I really think, at that point, that game was set up in a four-game series but then it was already scheduled out beyond that. There really wasn’t an opportunity at that point to schedule anything in the realistic future.