While most, if not all, of the Pittsburgh fan base — and college football as a whole, really — would like to see the resumption of the Backyard Brawl, it’s an in-state rivalry that tops the to-do list of the new head of Pittsburgh’s athletic department.
Back in May, the head coaches at Pitt and Penn State, Pat Narduzzi and James Franklin, respectively, called for extending the Panther-Nittany Lion rivalry beyond the four-game series, which begins in 2016 and was announced back in 2011. The former’s boss agrees with that sentiment.
In wide-ranging interviews with both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Scott Barnes, who started as Pitt’s new athletic director earlier this month, stated that the first phone call he made in his new post was to his counterpart at Penn State, Sandy Barbour. The discussion? Ensuring that she knows he considers the football series between the two programs a priority.
“Penn State, for us, we want to play that game as long as we can, home-and-home,” Barnes said. “We’re working hard to try to move that forward.”
While resuming the rivalry with West Virginia “is an important factor,” Barnes said, “Penn State’s a priority.”
Pitt and Penn State have a pair of home-and series scheduled for 2016-2019. The series, first played in 1893, has been on hiatus since 2000, a 12-0 win for Pitt at Three Rivers Stadium. Penn State, however, leads the all-time series 50-42-4.
Pitt and WVU, meanwhile, have squared off 104 times on the gridiron, with the first coming 1895. That 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.
There has been talk of resuming that rivalry, although nothing yet has come to fruition on that front.
“We’ve talked to Pitt, but they’ve got a lot going on, because they’re trying to get Penn State back on their schedule…they’re trying to figure out when they can squeeze us in,” then-WVU AD Oliver Luck said in the summer of 2013. “Their AD and I just talked last week, so we’re trying to get that set up. It’s all about dates. I think it will get done, but it’s all a matter of when.”
Oddly enough, it was announced two months after Luck made that statement that WVU had reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series (2023-24) with… Penn State, of course.