Just last week, new Pittsburgh athletic director Scott Barnes was labeling the continuation of the in-state rivalry with Penn State “a priority.”
For Barnes’ counterpart at West Virginia, the resumption of one of the most intense rivalries in college football sits at or near the top of his to-do list.
In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, WVU AD Shane Lyons confirmed that he and Barnes have resumed talks on possibly restarting the Backyard Brawl. The Pitt-WVU series went on hiatus after the 2011 season when WVU moved from the Big East to the Big 12 and, a year later, Pitt from the same conference to the ACC.
“It’s one of my top priorities in scheduling,” Lyons said in an interview Monday with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I think it’s a great thing for us as a university, it’s a great thing for Pitt and it’s a great thing for college football as a whole.”
While its tremendous that the two rivals are talking about renewing the series, it’s extremely doubtful that any resumption would take place prior to the 2018 season as both Pitt’s and WVU’s non-conference schedules in 2016 and 2017 are filled. It’s also possible that the 2022 season would be the first to see a revival.
Beyond the 2017 season, WVU, which plays just three non-conference games a year because of the nine-game Big 12 slate, already has two games annually scheduled against Power Five programs in 2018 (Tennessee, North Carolina State), 2019 (Missouri, North Carolina State) and 2021 (Maryland Virginia Tech). Pitt also has two non-conference games scheduled against Power Five teams in 2018 (Penn State, Notre Dame).
The 2020 season could be a possibility for a one-year resumption as both schools have just one Power Five game currently on the agenda, WVU vs. Maryland and Pitt vs. Notre Dame. Outside of 2020, though, it could be at least seven years down the road before a resumption actually comes to fruition.
The good news for fans of the rivalry, though, is that both sides are at least willing to discuss the possibility of getting back together again.
“I’ll continue those conversations with Scott and see where it heads,” Lyons said. “Obviously, he’s only been on the job for a couple of weeks now, but we did have a preliminary discussion of saying ‘Hey, I’d like to talk to you about scheduling.’ He was open to talking about scheduling, so it’s just a matter of getting both schools to sit down and look at what we have and what they have open and trying to make something work.”
The Mountaineers and Panthers have squared off 104 times on the gridiron, with the first coming 1895. The last came Nov. 25, 2011, a 21-20 WVU win in Morgantown. Pitt, though, holds the all-time series lead at 61-40-3.