October 24, 2011

Sticking With Rivalries

Filed under: Opponent(s) — Chas @ 4:03 pm

In all the talk about expansiopocolypse, there is one thing that most people on any side of the issue can agree: it sucks to lose rivalry games. Things change. New rivalries develop. New hate. But there is something special about being able to share that hate. Share the rivalry between generations. Comparing. Looking at the history. Taunting someone else of a long past game.

With Pitt heading to the ACC at some point. It looking increasingly likely that West Virginia will head to the Big 12 once Mizzou makes its decision to try their luck in the SEC.

[Brief tangent here on Missouri. The Missouri slow dance to the SEC is succeeding in pissing more people off than I could have expected. Everyone in the Big 12 seems to just want them to stop pretending and get out already so they get the replacement. Everyone in the SEC is hating them for jerking this around and not showing the proper unbrideled lust and desire to be in the SEC like Texas A&M did. And the rest of the country just wants them to make the move so we can forget about them once more.

Honestly, I can’t help but think that the slow move by Mizzou is all orchestrated out of desperation in a fruitless hope that the Big 10 will make an eleventh hour offer. That’s where they really want to go. Where they think they belong. The midwest. Rivalry with Illinois and natural rival with Iowa and old Big 8 foe, Nebraska. If they sign on to the SEC, it is going to be a long-term commitment and they may miss their chance when the next cycle of expansiopocolypse strikes the Big 10. It’s not going to happen. The Big 10 doesn’t need Missouri, and that conference would never do any reacting to what others do (or at least would act like it wouldn’t).]

Now, before West Virginia was about to find that “Get out of jail” card, they were at risk. The Big 12 appeared to favor Lousiville over WVU because of geography, market and even academics. But as usual with the Big 12, Texas had a different preference and dictated it.

Asked why the Big 12 would be upgraded, the official said, “West Virginia has better football than Missouri, better basketball than Missouri, a better budget than Missouri and more passion among its fans than Missouri. They’re better, anyway you turn ’em. The travel’s not good (to Morgantown, W. Va.), but that’s it.”

He added there is support for Louisville, but said a lagging football program hurts its appeal.

The well-placed administrator said Missouri would probably have to remain in the Big 12 next school year because it’s getting so late in the process to find a replacement quickly, and an early Missouri exit could lead to financial liability for that school.

A second Big 12 school official told the Statesman he prefers Louisville because of its closer proximity and said travel to West Virginia would make for too big a burden on athletes.

“The only place where there’s an advantage for West Virginia is better football,” the second official said. “Their academics is not as strong. If there’s any thought about what’s best for the student-athlete, we’ll go with Louisville.”

The thing worth noting is that the Big 12 expects Missouri to be stuck in the Big 12 for 2012, simply because of how late things already are and Mizzou may be less willing to cut a huge check to bail early. That does seem likely, and is probably the best for WVU. It is almost November and most of the football schedules for the following season are finished by December — finalized and announced in January.

Given that anything short of complete implosion of the Big East, any poached Big East member — Pitt, Syracuse and probably WVU — are going to be held in the conference for next year. Not even for spite. It’s survival of the conference. They need at least 8 members to be an AQ conference in the BCS. The other potential new members will probably be stuck in their own conferences for another year since they haven’t even gotten formal invites and been able to provide notice to their conferences.

The one thing that will have to be resolved is the future of the Backyard Brawl. Jerry DiPaola reflected on some other foot-in-mouth comments from WVU AD Ollie Luck back in the beginning of October including the need for the Backyard Brawl for Pitt.

“I have not had any discussions with the Pitt folks. I have kind of let them be, quite honestly, with all the activity,” Luck said. “But my sense is they will be interested in maintaining the football rivalry with us. We bring 25,000 fans to Heinz Field. We fill it up. Pitt is not filling up Heinz Field on their own, so that game from a financial perspective is pretty important to them.”

Considering that WVU didn’t use their allotment at Heinz Field last year and Milan-Puskar hasn’t been filling up this year, Luck has been on a roll. DiPaola wonders if comments like that will hurt the chances to keep the Backyard Brawl. Pitt will likely have only 3 open dates for the non-con in football once in the ACC — and if it became a choice between playing ND every year or WVU — personal affronts along with a wash on the financials could send the Brawl into hiatus on the football side.

I doubt stupid words would (we are talking utterances from a Hoopie), but the money/exposure issues might. Playing ND is a national game. It is guaranteed big coverage. The Backyard Brawl is a regional rivalry. It is intense. It is often entertaining. But it is still regional, and takes on slightly less importance when it will no longer relate to the conference standings for either. It goes back to being like Georgia-GT and Clemson-South Carolina.

So, yeah, the Backyard Brawl could fade more easily than we realize. I hope not, though.

The Backyard Brawl is worth keeping — even over Notre Dame. It is a true rivalry and has real hatred and history.

Yes, I know ND and Pitt have now played 67 times. They are tied with Syracuse as Pitt’s 3d most played opponent, behind WVU and Penn St. And for ND, Pitt is fifth on their list behind USC, Purdue, Michigan State and Navy. And fifth is about where Pitt is on the list of teams ND wants to beat in a given season. Let’s also be realistic. Pitt has historically been dominated by the Domers. To the tune of 20-46-1. I can hate the Irish and want to see them beaten badly, but I can’t declare that it is a rivalry.

The Backyard Brawl is a rivalry. It has doomed seasons. Made seasons. The fans get after it. There’s true hate.

Pitt has been very good about keeping rivalry games when it can. Even when there is little reason to do so, and costs the program money. The City Game with Duquesne is a good example. At this point, the game is high risk, low reward for Pitt. Win and Pitt is supposed to, lose and it is a big blow to an at best, middling A-10 school. Beyond that, Pitt has been willing to treat Duquesne like an equal by letting the contest be a home-and-home series — until the recent move to the Con. Giving up a home game to treat them more than fairly and more respect than would be expected. I expect Pitt will make the right decision to try and continue playing WVU in football and basketball.

The good thing with WVU probably heading to the Big 12, is they have less reason to not keep the Backyard Brawl going. Hard feelings over Pitt going to the ACC would be defused. If there really any were, considering WVU was more active than Pitt in trying to get out of the Big East. I think both sides recognize the importance to the fans and the region, and will make sure it continues.

As Pitt fans, we’ve seen the loss of one great, historic rivalry game. I don’t want to see the loss of another.

I think you keep pursuing the PSU rivalry because playing them…and playing ND…makes your program stronger. I hate to say it, but they are monster programs…bigger than ours right now. whether WVU is or not is debatable…but playing monster programs and winning is big what propels us to the next level. and screw basketball…in the ACC we are not going to need any help on that front.

but if we don’t end up playing any of them, i won’t be that concerned either. my view on this changed as soon as we went to the ACC. i luv beating some of these teams, but what pitt needs right now is legitimacy…not rivalry.

and even if we dont end up playing PSU, ND, or WVU…we’ll work up new rivals. i feel like going to the ACC is going to bring match-ups with some great teams that will more than give us our fill. by going to the ACC we’ve made a move that has us moving in the right direction. we need to focus on competing in that conference….when we do that we’ll have arrived as a legit contender. and when that happens, we’ll have new, better teams lined up to be our rivals. lets make it so our biggest game of the year is an ACC championshiop game

Comment by boomer 10.25.11 @ 11:47 am

load up the non-conference with cupcakes…we wont have to prove anything when we’re in the acc…it will shake out in conference play

Comment by boomer 10.25.11 @ 11:49 am

All reports are that WVU is in the Big 12 once Mizzou leaves for SEC. I read that some of the hold up is that if Mizzou leaves then Kansas City will lose the Big 12 basketball tournament which is a pretty big deal to the city.

I personally would get rid of WVU. I go to many road games, but I refuse to go to Morgantown due to all the issues at the game. I don’t think Pitt should play any team in which Pitt fans will fear for their safety. I’d take just about any team over WVU. Heck even a team like Iowa is better. I know we have no history. But my trip to Iowa this year was awesome. The fans were friendly and helpful and it was a great time, minus the final score of the game of course.

Comment by Wardapalooza 10.25.11 @ 11:52 am

I agree completely with pghFred. WVU is Pitt’s rival now. Many a season have been ruined in the Brawl since Penn St. dropped Pitt from the schedule. Let’s not let this rivalry rot chasing PSU and ND.

Its too bad that Joe Pa was willing to let the Pitt-PSU rivalry wither away, but all the venom is gone. They don’t care about us and I think the only reason Pitt fans care about them is because it reminds them of the glory days of Pitt football

Please correct me if I’m wrong. I attended Pitt from out of state and was a freshman during Pitt’s first Heinz season, so my view on this is from a way more recent vantage point. I have zero personal feelings about PSU, only the echos of hate left behind by the people who attended before me. I remember my freshmen year there still being some P-E-N-N-S-T Sucks chants. Those eventually disappeared by the time I graduated.

But goddamn do I like beating WVU. Getting beat at Heinz with thousands of hoopies filling the seats has really ruined my weekend a few times. Also, the best victory I have experienced as a Pitt fan is the 2007 Brawl. I guess as a non-PA resident, who started attending Pitt at the turn of the century, WVU has a hell of a lot more meaning to me than PSU.

Comment by Chris 10.25.11 @ 12:06 pm

WVU all the way. They hate us just as much as we hate them. PSU and ND fans are indifferent. Stick with an opponent that has as much vested in the rivalry as you do.

F**k Penn State! They’ve had their chances to renew the rivalry and don’t want to (2 games in 5 years and no plans to go further is crap)…and ND hasn’t been relevant in 15 years.

Besides, there’s an outside shot ND joins us in the ACC…

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 10.25.11 @ 12:46 pm

Man Chris, that was a good post. I’m the opposite. Growing up in eastern PA all it was either Penn State or Notre Dame. There was no other option. But Penn State was the one you hated. Maybe it was the arrogance, the fact that you grew up with it. Do you know how many goddamn “Why is the sky blue? (Because God must be a Penn State fan)” bumper stickers I’ve seen? How many times I’ve seen those ridiculous blue and white paw prints stuck onto mini-van doors? How many times I heard “You Pitt fans are so funny, I can’t believe you think we are rivals.”? Nobody from my town ever made it to Notre Dame, but a whole bunch of my friends loved telling me how awesome Penn State was, over and over and over again…

I graduated from Pitt the year after we beat PSU 12-0 at Three Rivers – the last game of the series. And man, let me tell you that was a WIN. 55,000 people never sounded so loud. I also traveled to Happy Vally the year before when we came within a hair’s breadth of beating them at their place, even though we like 17 point dogs. And let me tell you that stadium was off-the-hook loud. Have you ever felt bleachers vibrating beneath your feet, BEFORE the game? I have.

Maybe you’re right though…maybe it’s been to long and all the venom is gone. Maybe. But I don’t think so. I think it runs too deep. I think it runs too local. I respect that you’re from out of state and you’ve never seen us play PSU, but if you ask me, that venom is there, and it always will be.

That being said, I love beating WVU too…

Comment by Atlanta Panther 10.25.11 @ 1:00 pm

Freshman Wideout Salath Williams w/ season ending surgery this morning..

Comment by H.LandPitt 10.25.11 @ 1:06 pm

Atl Panther – I was also at Happy Valley for the last Pitt-PSU game there. My brother’s father in law was a prof and we all sat in the faculty seats.

The only ones screaming and cheering for Pitt in that section were myself and mom (sad to say but bro has gone to the dark side). It took a blocked FG by Arrington to secure the win for the lions.

Comment by pghFred 10.25.11 @ 2:02 pm

I was in the PSU student section pghFred. Barely made it out alive…hell of a game.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 10.25.11 @ 4:06 pm

WVU is an “office hot” rival.

Comment by dcpinpgh 10.25.11 @ 11:09 pm

I’ve gone down to Morgantown to watch Pitt play WVU in football (and basketball) and never experienced what some of you are describing. Sure, some fans may say things like, “Eat Sh!T Pitt”, but for the most part they just watched the game. Maybe I lucked out and sat in a more reserved section, but I jumped up and cheered when Baldwin caught a late touchdown to tie up the game in 2009 and nobody said a thing to me. No objects were hurled at my head. Nothing. My two cents: We should continue the Brawl.

Comment by CBC 10.26.11 @ 12:21 pm

The Pitt/Penn State game was one of the best rivalry games in the country…but over 10 years ago, PSU walked away and has acted like their mediocrity doesn’t stink ever since…any mention of reviving the game has been met with derision on their part (although they have acquiessed to bless us with two meetings beginning five years from now) and they have pretty much told Pitt to get lost anytime the subject of the game comes up…so I say the hell with them…

I was one who once thought that we needed to play the game every year; a great tradition for both schools…something that both schools needed…

But now, I say the Brawl is better…”The Backyard Brawl is a rivalry. It has doomed seasons. Made seasons. The fans get after it. There’s true hate.”…couldn’t agree more!

Comment by Leaseman 10.26.11 @ 2:53 pm

[…] wrote about it last month, and my feelings still hold. The Backyard Brawl is a great rivalry game, and we are lucky to be a […]

[…] but before the Big 12 needed to get WVU, the WVU AD Oliver Luck spoke a little too quickly about how much Pitt needs the Backyard Brawl. Reality actually suggests otherwise. Pitt has an easier time finding teams willing to do […]

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