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.