On Monday, new Penn State basketball coach Pat Chambers was introduced to the Pitt-Penn State rivalry of words rather quickly when he was asked about the prospects of the Nittany Lions and Panthers hooking up on the court some time in the near future. The teams haven't played since 2005 when Pitt destroyed Penn State 91-54 in Oakland at the Petersen Events Center. Chambers was almost shockingly forward in his answer as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Musselman reports.
"I like [Pitt coach] Jamie Dixon," Chambers said Monday after his introductory news conference at the Bryce Jordan Center. "He's a friend. I would definitely be open to playing Pitt."
"I would like a rivalry," Chambers said. "I think [Pitt] would be great. I think Pennsylvania would come out and watch that game.
"Am I trying to schedule that game next year? Probably not. But in the future? Yes."
Since Musselman's piece ran Tuesday, there's been reaction to the comments both here in the fanposts and over at the excellent SBN Pitt blog Cardiac Hill. We at BSD decided not to touch the comments for the first couple of days, choosing instead to focus on the business of Penn State basketball rather than what's barely a rivalry in hoops, but now that things have slowed down a little here at the end of the week, hey, let's have some fun with the topic.
Cardiac Hill likes the idea of playing Penn State...with strings attached.
I've been all over Penn State in the past for not coming flat out and saying they wanted to play Pitt, so I'm glad to hear this and I give him all sorts of credit. Now, it's up to Jamie Dixon and Pitt to get it done.
If a two-for-one is a non-starter for Pitt in football, it should be one for Penn State in basketball. Period. Yes, Pitt dominated Penn State in the final years of the hardwood series, but times have changed. Penn State, while still not remotely as healthy a program as Pitt, is no longer abysmal at basketball. It's broken into the promised land of "mediocre" and possibly even "respectable" with an NIT Championship in 2009 and Big Ten Tournament championship game and NCAA Tournament appearances in 2011.
If Penn State were to give Pitt, a good but not particularly great program, a two-for-one deal, it'd have no leverage with any other solid high majors that might be willing to schedule the Lions home-and-home. For an athletic department that has a hard enough time drawing big names to the Bryce Jordan Center to begin with, a two-for-one deal with Pitt is just bad business.
There might be some other interesting ways to get the two teams together in basketball, though.
One might be a 1-1-1 agreement with one game at the BJC, one at the Pete and one at the brand new Consol Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh. Each school would get a home game and could split the revenue from the third game at the neutral court down the middle. The CEC is so big in seats and especially luxury suites (!!!) that both schools would probably pull in enough revenue to eclipse what they'd make in home games against mid-majors, assuming a nice crowd shows up.
Another idea might be setting up a tournament at the CEC between Pitt, Penn State, Duquesne and Robert Morris. The Panthers and Dukes could be matched at one end of the bracket to preserve the City Game, and the Lions and Colonials could match up in the other to give Penn State a potential resume builder against what has been the class of the NEC over the last few years. Do this over the holidays when students are off campus and ticket sales are slow at the respective schools and an agreement could easily be reached that helps everyone involved come out ahead financially.
I can't say any of these methods are locks to work out, but the good news is that unlike in football where the schools have been fighting over two-for-one vs. home-and-home for more than a decade, there are multiple ways to set up a matchup in basketball. Let's hope one works out, as Penn State basketball could really use the exposure and RPI boost of matching up with a school like Pitt every year.