Well, I think we all knew this was going to be the major post topic of the day.
I want to thank Pitt and Penn State for making this announcement now. It was getting down to minimum content time here at PittBlather. I’m talking bottom of the barrel, tangentially related, minimal stuff.
I mean, sure the actual game is some 1914 days away or so, but it is still exciting news. All over the Pennsylvania papers and picked up nationally on the wires.
There are and will be plenty of people to try and minimize this. To say it is not the same as it once was. It no longer has the national significance from the 70s and 80s. Fine. They are right. Both teams are in different conferences. It’s a non-con game that will be played in mid-September. We have no idea what either team will look like in 5 years. All of that is true. But it still matters. It is still a big deal. It still has a lot of people excited.
If Pitt announced season tickets were available for the 2016 season right now, I’d be putting my money down. My parents are both Penn State grads. Shortly after the news broke my dad called to ask whether I’m getting an extra ticket for the game so he can go.
On to the link round-up.
It was conspicuous by its absence, that the PSU press release had no comments from Joe Paterno.
According to Curley and Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson, this two-year agreement for games in 2016-17 isn’t a peace accord between the two teams (Indeed, a Penn State spokesman said head coach Joe Paterno would not comment on the contract). Instead, Penn State merely had two dates to fill, so Curley placed a call to Pederson.
Curley told ESPN Radio in State College that he had received a “strong verbal commitment” from the University of Miami, but “unfortunately it fell apart.” (Would Miami’s new coach have anything to do with that? Just wondering).
I’m sure that at some point Paterno will say something vaguely positive about it, and then try to move on from there. I mean, really, chances are they just had not yet told Paterno that arrangements had been made to play Pitt.
As that post notes, PSU AD Tim Curley went on 93.7 The Fan and quickly pooh-poohed the idea of this being more than a 2-year thing. It was apparently the usual contradictory stuff about how PSU needs to play more of a national schedule with so many alumni spread out across the country — while stating the good of the game since more PSU alum live in Western PA than any other part of the country.
As usual, Penn State also sticks to its other old chestnut of an excuse why the teams don’t play yearly.
“I don’t think that they were gonna do a two-for-one,” Curley said of Pitt, “so we had an opening for a two-game series.”
It’s not going to happen. No self-respecting program in a BCS conference is going to do a 2-1 deal. Just, as I wrote last week, even PSU would not do a 1-2 with Pitt in basketball. So the less said about that, the better.
This is a good thing for the Commonwealth to get its “Super Bowl” back. And while conference games are technically more important for both schools, true rivalry games don’t need a conference affiliation.
Penn State has had rivalries within the Big Ten against Ohio State and Michigan State, but its biggest rival has been off the schedule for quite some time to the dismay of the diehards of Nittany Nation.
But that one true rival is coming back on the schedule. The Nittany Lions and Pittsburgh will resume their long-time duel in 2016 with a home-and-home series.
The memories and history of this series, to steal a phrase, wake up the echoes.
So what has the current generation been missing?
Some of the most memorable college football games of the 1970s and 1980s were Pitt-Penn State games, including the 1976 matchup in which Tony Dorsett clinched his Heisman and set the NCAA career rushing record, and the 1981 game in which Pitt scored two quick touchdowns and then was overwhelmed by 48 consecutive points from the Nittany Lions. For a while, Penn State fans walked around wearing buttons that said nothing more than: “48-14.”
Penn State greats John Capelletti, Todd Blackledge and Shane Conlan played in the game; so did Pitt’s Dan Marino, Mark May and Hugh Green.
The late Foge Fazio, a genial man who coached Pitt for four seasons in the early 1980s, summed up the rivalry’s importance when he said in 1985:
“There’s nothing more important when you’re playing against your neighbor or your friend than you want to really knock his jock off and knock it off in a hurry.”
It was nice of Miami to have their plans for a home-and-home fall through. Kind of put the pressure on Penn State to find an opponent. Conspiracy theorists will probably suggest that new Miami coach Al Golden expects Paterno to be retired by then and that he will get the job by 2016. So, rather than have the awkward meeting against his former team, kill it.
As you would expect in the Pittsburgh papers, there’s the stuff about how it should still be played every year. That the series should never have ended. And that this took long enough to happen — even for just a 2-game series. Money quote from Jackie Sherrill:
“I think Joe Paterno is getting soft,” said Jackie Sherrill, the former Pitt coach and Paterno nemesis. “The Joe Paterno I used to know, he was not that soft. He must be getting soft in his old age, or is trying to do the right thing.”
I repeat. I don’t think Curley had even told Paterno about the games before the announcement was made.