We’ve seen many great rivalry games get lost to the history books over the past few years but there have been a handful of big games renewed by schools as well. One of the most notable series to get revived in recent memory has been the Penn State-Pitt game, which returned last season as part of a four-game deal after a 16 year absence.
The two rivals have split the first two games, with the Panthers winning at home in 2016 and the Nittany Lions returning the favor during a 33-14 win in September. As fun as the series has been so far though, there are only two games left in the original deal and that’s led some to wonder about the future of the rivalry. In an interview with the Canton Repository this week, new Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke confirmed talks to extend the series and even went so far as to say that a deal is very close to being completed.
“We have two games left in football. We play them next year on Sept. 9 at Heinz Field and it’ll be the 99th meeting between Pitt and Penn State. Then we play the Century Game back in Penn State in 2019,” said Lyke. “We have a contract very close to being done and being sent to Penn State to extend the football deal and I think that’s a huge priority and a huge rivalry and it’s necessary, so we’re working hard on that.”
Sounds like it’s a done deal to see the two square off in the future for years to come, right? Well, maybe not.
While Lyke is trying to get the ducks in a row for new contract extension on the Pitt side, the Penn State side of things is pumping the breaks just a bit. Nittany Lions AD Sandy Barbour released a statement on Thursday to local media and seemed to indicate that the school is talking with their big city rivalries but are also keep their options open after 2019.
“As I’ve said many times before, I have strong appreciation for the history and tradition of the Penn State-Pitt series,” Barbour said. “Since Heather’s arrival at Pitt we’ve had conversations about the series. We (Penn State) have to determine how any possible future games might fit with our other scheduling requirements and objectives.”
Penn State does have home-and-home’s scheduled with Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Auburn from 2020-2025 but they would still have room to accommodate Pitt if they want to. It’s possible the series could be extended to 2020 and beyond or simply return in 2026 if PSU continues their current scheduling philosophy.
Either way, let’s hope that both sides come to their senses and realize that rivalry games need to continue on a consistent basis and not have to go through the rollercoaster of playing off and on over the years to come.