June 15, 2011

The Return of Pitt-Penn State

Filed under: Football,Non-con,Schedule — Chas @ 8:45 am

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.


That Sherrill quote made my morning.

Comment by Greg in New Orleans 06.15.11 @ 9:00 am

I’m happy Sherril got to get a parting shot at JoePa before he totally fades into darkness

Comment by BnG 06.15.11 @ 9:40 am

This one really blindsided me when I got the email yesterday at 5:44pm. In these times of media overkill its amazing that there was not a single word about this until it was actually official and announced. This must have happened very quickly.

Glad to hear it is done but knowing its going to be 5 more years to wait really sucks!

Can we now officially start the P-E-N-N-S-T Sucks chants again?

Comment by Coach Ditka 06.15.11 @ 9:42 am

As an aside note: The supposed ‘hatred’ between Paterno and Sherrill is mostly in the fan’s minds. Yes, Paterno had his famous “I’m not going to leave…’. But what most fans don’t know is that Paterno and Sherrill communicate rather regularly and Paterno has had Sherrill and his wife as overnight house guests more than once since Sherrill left PITT.

Comment by Reed 06.15.11 @ 10:53 am

Never took JoePa as a swinger.

Comment by Freebird 06.15.11 @ 11:30 am

Penn State fans are currently falling all over themselves and the message boards to announce how much they don’t care about this. Uh huh. Methinks they doth protest too much…..

Comment by JCE 06.15.11 @ 11:48 am

I’m a Pitt Alum…Was there in the early 80’s when this rivalry was blazing hot…and I don’t give a crap about this two game series 5 years from now. Dont’ get me wrong, its nice to see a quality opponent on the non-con, its a bonus to have it be PSU, but it would we just as exciting to add Florida, Texas, OSU, etc. By the time that game is played, the two teams will not have played each other for 15 years. Its a shame this rivalry was killed by morons at both schools, but it is dead. No two game stint is going to bring it back…I prefer to focus all of my rivalry intensity on WVU…Any hate I had for PSU was long ago transferred to WVU, and them some!

Comment by HbgFrank 06.15.11 @ 1:22 pm

Frank I would have to disagree. I think the 5 year wait will only give the rivalry more time to add fuel back to the fire. Yes its been a long time and most of us have put the state penn behind us because there were no signs to suggest that the rivalry would ever come back and certainly not any time soon but now that its on the books all of the old feelings of hatred come rushing back. I personally cant wait. I was there for the last game at Three Rivers and I will be there in 2016!

Comment by Coach Ditka 06.15.11 @ 2:28 pm

Coincidentally Ol’Pa will be in his 50th year as head coach in 2016, any chance Graham is still our coach in 2016???

Comment by Coach Ditka 06.15.11 @ 2:31 pm

He will be either the Strom Thurmond or Robert Byrd of the college coaches. Oops, didn’t mean to offend him the PSU fans looking in by lumping in him with members of congress.

5 years will either prove Graham to eb ineffective and be fired, or prove to be very effective and move on to (the likes of) Okla St where Pickens will pay him $5m year.

Comment by wbb 06.15.11 @ 2:49 pm

Coach Ditka, from what I gather in reading a quote from one of the articles, this was all done in one or two hours before the news conference(s). No time for rumors, no time for media leaks. It was all spontaneous and hashed out then and there as soon as the first call was place by State Penn’s AD.

Comment by dugdog 06.15.11 @ 4:23 pm

Ok, so maybe spontaneous is the wrong word, but you get the idea.

Comment by dugdog 06.15.11 @ 4:26 pm

Can’t wait for this game! Penn State fans keep saying how indifferent they are about the series, yet those same fans are the first to say how “inferior” Pitt is to them. Sounds like a rivalry to me… Now if we could just get the basketball series resumed so we can put those elitist cow people from State College in their place

Comment by Greg 06.15.11 @ 5:45 pm

Chas, If both your parents were Nitters, how did you end up at Pitt? Nitters are pretty good at brainwashing their children. Good job to resist the evil forces of State Penn.

Comment by Annie 06.15.11 @ 5:45 pm

I’m not as pumped about this as I thought I’d be.

It just feels like we signed up for a home and home with another non-con opponent, and then it’s over, that’s it.

I mean, I guess it’s better than nothing, but two games, and only two games, 5 years from now isn’t really enough to get me excited.

Comment by Jimbo Covert's my Dad 06.15.11 @ 7:15 pm

This will be the best home gave at Heinz Field since it opened. Nothing was better than Pitt-PSUcks games. My excitement for this game is indescribable.

Comment by omar 06.15.11 @ 7:49 pm

What’s nice is this came totally out of the blue. Like most of you, I was more interested to see a solid list of future non-conference opponents like Iowa popping up again, a renewal of Pitt-Virginia Tech, and Pitt-Notre Dame home-and home games beyond 2016. Living in Texas and psyched about seeing Big East football just a 4-hour drive away, I hadn’t thought much about Pitt-Penn State. I’m glad it’s happening but it’s not a deal breaker.

Comment by TonyinHouston 06.15.11 @ 9:06 pm

It’s a start. Those of us on the Board who lived it, know how powerful the Pitt-PSU rivalry was. From about 1970 (when Penn State became, well, Penn State) until the mid ’80’s, when Pitt, and everything else, went cattywampus, the Pitt-PSU game was as big as they came. The series died because one man deemed it so, and even though he buys two hot dogs and coke at halftime and feeds 110,000 people in pajamas, even he won’t live forever. This is the opening that was needed and will ultimately lead to a resurrection of the series, as it should be. By the time they play in 5 years, who knows what conference alignments will be, diaper Joe will be in a home watching replays of Woody Hayes belting the kid from Clemson, and Pitt will be a football power again. The Hatfield/McCoy act of the last 30 years has been a disgrace for the state of Pennsylvania and current generations know it. Penn State no more belongs in the Big Ten than Madonna does the Vatican. They never have been a fit and they have never been able to establish a true rivalry. The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass forever and their run is over. Pitt will be the power broker, and, contrary to the children in charge in State College, they will act like adults and make decisions in the best interests of the entire state, not one county. Pitt and Penn State need each other just like Alabama and Auburn need each other. A love/hate relationship is better than no relationship at all.

Comment by wally 06.15.11 @ 9:09 pm

Penn state has been gone to long i care more abought beating WVU plus the game is so far away 5 years. i hate WVU MORE. piss on penn state.

Comment by FRANKCAN 06.15.11 @ 10:06 pm

Some info pennstate has 8 football commitments for 2012 5 4 stars 3 3 stars wvu has 5 commitments we have 1 he is a no star a nr. who is a 165 pounds just saying whats up

Comment by FRANKCAN 06.15.11 @ 10:24 pm

From the P-G:
“We are excited about renewing our rivalry with Pitt,” Curley said. “We have worked our schedules to play some of our neighboring rivalries like Syracuse, Rutgers and Temple and are glad to have identified dates that worked for our schedules to play Pitt.

Let’s see. Syracuse, Rutgers, Pitt (and WVU) are not on PSU’s 2011 schedule. I wonder if some very intelligent person can figure out a way that PSU could play these four rivalry schools every year (and perhaps even UConn). Ah, it’s too difficult of a problem for me. I think that I’ll just download the Big East web site and see what’s happening in the BE.

Comment by BigGuy 06.15.11 @ 10:51 pm

Remember, State Penn is a ‘national’ team. They can’t be handcuffed by playing Northeast regional teams with historical ties and tradition. They have to travel the country so the entire nation can see their living legend and exciting brand of football in those classic white unis. They have alumni and fans all over the country and it wouldn’t be fair to them if the old Eastern independents were scheduled ahead of the likes of Alabama, Akron and Eastern Michigan. Pitt either will hurt their strength of schedule or be too difficult of an opponent so early in the season. Moreover, Pitt doesn’t know it’s place since Pitt refuses the 2 for 1. We are Penn State…arrogant as ever just like I remember them that’s why they SUCK!

Comment by TX Panther 06.16.11 @ 10:30 am

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