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Panthers AD says contract “close to being done” to extend Pitt-Penn State series, Nittany Lions AD says not so fast

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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.

‘Heated’ Madden video game triggered Pitt teammates’ fight, charges

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These darned kids and their video games — especially these hyper-competitive student-athlete college kids.

Thursday, it was reported that a pair of Pittsburgh freshmen football players, defensive back Paris Ford and tight end Tyler Sear, are facing charges stemming from an Oct. 17 incident in which it’s alleged the teammates were involved in a physical altercation with each other. Each player will be, at this time, charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct/engaged in fighting.

On his Twitter account, Ford indicated that what he labeled as a “heated” Madden game, the popular EA Sports NFL video game, with a teammate he describes as his “Brother since 7th Grade” was to blame for the off-field incident.

In a statement, the university said that “[t]his situation was immediately addressed and the appropriate disciplinary actions from a program standpoint have been internally handled.” “This will be our only comment on the matter,” the school added.

Ford was the highest-rated member of the Panthers’ recruiting class this past year.  He hasn’t played in a game in 2017 and was a likely candidate for a redshirt even before the off-field incident.

Sear had played in the first four games this year, catching a pass in the season opener for 10 yards.  He hasn’t played since the Sept. 23 loss to Georgia Tech.

Two Pitt players charged after getting into a fight… with each other

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This isn’t exactly an optimal situation for Pat Narduzzi and his Pittsburgh football program.

Citing a university police report, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that a pair of Panthers freshmen, defensive back Paris Ford and tight end Tyler Sear, are facing charges following an Oct. 17 incident in which it’s alleged the teammates were involved in a physical altercation with each other.  Each player is facing a charge of misdemeanor disorderly conduct/engaged in fighting.

The alleged incident took place in an athletics dorm.

From the Post-Gazette‘s report:

Ford… and Sear… were “engaged in fighting behavior” with each other, per a criminal complaint filed Wednesday. Further details describing the scuffle are sparse, though a Pitt police officer wrote in the complaint that “this course of conduct created a physically hazardous condition to a degree police response was required.

As of yet, the football program hasn’t commented on the situation and any potential ramifications the two may be facing.

Ford was the highest-rated member of the Panthers’ recruiting class this past year.  He hasn’t played in a game this year and was a likely candidate for a redshirt even before the off-field incident.

Sear had played in the first four games this year, catching a pass in the season opener for 10 yards.  He hasn’t played since the Sept. 23 loss to Georgia Tech.

Pitt kicker explains decision to kneel during National Anthem

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Outside of a handful of upsets that muddled the chase for the four playoff spots, one of the larger storylines coming out of Week 7 was one player’s decision prior to his team’s game Saturday.

Ian Troost, a white walk-on kicker at Pitt, decided to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem ahead of the North Carolina State game.  Following the loss, head coach Pat Narduzzi and (most) of his teammates expressed their support of the junior’s decision to kneel.

The kicker wasn’t made available to the media afterward to explain his reasoning behind the decision, but, in a phone conversation with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Tuesday, Troost shed light on why he’s following the same path first plowed by Colin Kaepernick last year.  From the Post-Gazette:

It’s not just like ‘Oh, all of a sudden this is happening’ or all of a sudden this is a result of one recent thing; it’s a result of the culmination of things over the past hundreds of years and legislation that has been passed. My original reasons were Colin’s original reasons – to raise awareness of systematic oppression and racial injustice in the United States that we often see through police brutality or the excessive use of force.

Over the past four years of my college career, I have constantly been having these conversations and learning,” he said. “I’ve never been in that situation. I’ve never been stereotyped for the color of my skin. I’ve never been oppressed. I’ve never had to worry about walking down the street at 2 a.m. with a hood on or when I get pulled over by a police officer keeping my hands in sight at all times. I’ve never had to worry about that and I never will have to.

Trost made certain to state that his protest is not meant as a sign of disrespect for the military — a grandfather served in the Air Force while a close friend is at West Point, he noted — and it’s not an indictment of the vast majority of those in law enforcement.

“I do not in any way have anything against law enforcement,” Troost said. “They keep everyone in this country, myself included, safe 99.9 percent of the time. They risk their lives for us and I truly do appreciate that.

“But there are some that need to be brought to justice for ways they’ve acted on the job, while they have the badge on. That’s the main issue.”

Not all of Troost’s teammates were 100-percent behind the kicker, most notablyAvonte Maddox.

“Is really taking that knee going to prove anything?” senior cornerback said last Saturday. “That’s a statement for 30 seconds. You want to take action.

“If you really want to get out and do something, we want to go out in the real world and do things to make actual change, not 30 seconds of fame making a statement out there. Is that really going to help us?”

The newspaper writes that “Troost didn’t see Maddox’s words as a critique, viewing them instead as a teammate holding him accountable.”

Troost says he plans to continue kneeling during games he dresses for this season.  He’s also working with Pitt officials to create what’s described as a diversity inclusion workshop for Pitt athletes

Pat Narduzzi, teammates support Pitt player’s decision to kneel during National Anthem

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The National Anthem protest that has enveloped the NFL has created barely a ripple in the college game — in large part because the vast majority of teams are in the locker room when it’s played — but there have been pockets of college players following the lead of their professional counterparts.  One such instance came Saturday afternoon, with Pitt walk-on kicker Ian Troost going solo in kneeling for the anthem prior to the game against North Carolina State.

He wasn’t alone, though, as senior offensive tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith stood behind Troost with his hand on his shoulder.

Afterwards, Pat Narduzzi said he supported Troost’s decision.

“I’m never going to tell a guy you can’t do something,” the head coach said according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “What we’ve talked about is, if you’re going to do that, you’re trying to make a statement, we’re going to stick together. Someone had his hand on his shoulder saying, ‘We’re with you.'”

“I know I’m going to stand and put my hand over my heart,” Narduzzi added.

Troost’s teammates were supportive as well, with one stating that “[m]y take is everyone should be able to do what they think is needed to express themselves,” and another “[e]verybody has their own freedom to do as they please.”

One, however, questioned the effectiveness of this avenue of protest.

“Is really taking that knee going to prove anything?” senior cornerback Avonte Maddox said. “That’s a statement for 30 seconds. You want to take action.

“If you really want to get out and do something, we want to go out in the real world and do things to make actual change, not 30 seconds of fame making a statement out there. Is that really going to help us?”

Troost, who is white, wasn’t made available to the media by the Panthers after the game.