You know, just before the Memphis news broke I was actually working on a post on Pitt, the ACC, the Backyard Brawl and all the other things. Then Memphis happened and much changed. So I had to junk it and restart.
Heading into this past weekend, there were interesting comments by AD Steve Pederson about moving to the ACC and the future schedules. I didn’t think much of it, other than being water cooler talk. The ACC put out its future plans for the conference layout including the 9-game conference schedule for football.
Pederson went on the media rounds as expected to talk about it. Much like he has said before, they are keeping an eye on things regarding the WVU lawsuit as you would expect.
Pederson didn’t rule out Pitt playing in the ACC this year, but that is tied to West Virginia’s court fight.
“We are following that very closely and continuing to monitor what happens there,” Pederson said. “I don’t know exactly what the future holds.”
That isn’t anything that he really hasn’t said before.
One new tidbit was being upset about already having one hole in the schedule because of the way the Big East let TCU go after having strong-armed Pitt to back out of a game with UCF.
“We actually bought our way out of the Central Florida game,” Pederson said. “That wasn’t our preference. We weren’t consulted on letting TCU out of the league without a waiting period. It really has put us in a very difficult spot.”
Other teams in the Big East are obviously in a similar state. Maybe they didn’t have pay to cancel a game, but they are stuck trying to fill that scheduling hole. Which is yet another reason why the Big East has to fight WVU so hard on leaving.
Then there was the subject of the out of conference schedule/rivalry games.
Pitt has a contract to play Notre Dame through 2015 and will welcome Penn State back onto its schedule for games in 2016 and ’17. Pederson said he hopes to continue both series beyond those dates.
“I would love to play Penn State every year,” he said.
He is not as interested in continuing the West Virginia series.
“We have to evaluate what our options are with teams and who else we want to continue to play,” he said.
I touched on this back when it the move to the Big 12 for WVU was on the horizon. I understand the national and financial implications of keeping ND. Plus, there is no question the Penn State rivalry should happen and — as many of us have maintained — likely will happen within a few more years now that Joe Paterno has passed.
I feel somewhat strongly, though, that the Backyard Brawl should continue. For the same reasons I stated earlier.
Where I think I erred in my evaluation was discounting the impact the comments of WVU’s AD, Oliver Luck, shortly after Pitt and Syracuse had announced they were heading to the ACC.
Jerry DiPaola reflected on some other foot-in-mouth commentsfrom 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.
On reflection and given the way Pederson has been talking in recent days, I may have underestimated the personal affront to Pederson, Chancellor Nordenberg and the rest of the Pitt administration over this. That Luck didn’t treat this as a fan/history thing, but that Pitt needs WVU for the money. There’s a definite feeling that the Pitt side is looking at this and asking how is this a good thing to continue?
WVU is now in a southwest conference. Why give them extra exposure and attention in the Pittsburgh area? Given West Virginia will be facing significantly increased travel costs going to the Big 12, the Backyard Brawl is not only a big economic boost for them as well, it is a nice money saver on one road game every other year.
The economic value is minimal in reality to Pitt with only 3 non-con games, and the potential for 2 spots occupied by other programs that would generate equal if not greater money, exposure and attention. Then the topper would be not having to deal with an asshole like Luck.
I may be in the minority in wanting to see the Backyard Brawl continue, but it seems unlikely to happen unless WVU does a fair amount of damage control with Pitt. That seems unlikely given Luck’s arrogance, and the general Hoopie mood. The idea of trying to make nice with Pitt would stick in their craw way too much for them to want that.
This brings me back to the whole issue of the 2012 season. Paul Zeise had a provocative post suggesting just how eager Pitt now is to get to the ACC in 2012 rather than trying to wait out until 2013 as expected (including by me).
I am now becoming more and more convinced in the conversations I’ve had in the past two days that Pitt will be in the ACC in 2012 and here is why – the school has had enough with the way the Big East has mangled this all and frankly is waiting on West Virginia.
If – or more accurately – when, West Virginia finally declares they are leaving for the 2012 season officially and the Big 12 schedule is announced with WVU on it, Pitt is going to follow them out the door and dare the Big East to stop them.
The bottom line is this – the Big East let TCU out of things quickly and that left one hole in Pitt (and the other Big East teams) schedule and now, with West Virginia leaving, that will leave a second hole in the Panthers schedule and at that point it is time to punt.
Steve Pederson is making the media rounds today on the heels of the ACC meetings (hopefully those of us who are lowly ink-stained types will get our chance to talk to him tomorrow) and the one thing that is clear is he is far more optimistic about Pitt (and Syracuse’s) chances of playing in the ACC in 2012.
And here is the other thing – if Pitt and Syracuse don’t get out of this situation even after WVU leaves, expect lawsuits from Pitt and Syracuse against the Big East and WVU for breach of contract as both schools will lose a marque game which would be a television game and have to replace it with someone from the lower reaches of the Football Bowl Subdivision or Division I-AA.
So stay tuned because a lot of this is going to have to start really falling into place soon – as in within a few weeks.
Bit to chew over on this. First is that it is not that Pitt will go to the ACC in 2012. Just that they now have had a change of heart and don’t feel like playing the waiting game.
The other thing to note is that Zeise states that these feelings being conveyed to him over the past couple days would coincide with the Big East/Memphis negotiations. While Pitt, Cuse and WVU are not allowed to vote on Big East matters (or ACC things at the moment), they no doubt knew what was going on.
That the Big East is taking this action, while doing nothing to help the Big East football schools fill in at least one scheduling gap with the loss of TCU (to say nothing of WVU), has to be pissing off all of the football members. Memphis coming in 2013 does nothing for the 2012 schedule. Pitt (and Syracuse), though, have an option if they need to in taking themselves to the ACC.
Let’s say, the Big East takes $15 million from WVU as a settlement. Pitt can use that as a baseline number and subtract some of their costs already incurred in buying out the UCF game. They would also subtract the cost of having to buy two more games at the last minute if they stayed in the Big East. Then they would pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-13 million to head to the ACC.
Lawsuits would be avoided. Scheduling issues resolved, and they are in the ACC in 2012. Obviously this is an oversimplification.
And honestly, like my Syracuse compatriot, I still lean towards the expectation that Pitt and Cuse will be in the Big East for one more year. The difference is that now things are going to get a bit more nasty over the next year regardless.