In case you missed it, over the weekend, new Pittsburgh football coach Todd Graham was in Happy Valley for a confab with Joe Paterno, Temple head man Steve Addazio and coaches from the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association. Afterward, the group met with the media and predictably, the press asked Graham about the prospects of his Pitt team playing Penn State. He was all for it as Matt Fortuna of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
"I can remember watching that game growing up and the tremendous tradition that that game was, and we would actually love to play that game in the future," Pitt's first-year football coach said Friday at Penn State's Lasch Football Building. "It would be something that we'd be very much in favor of."
In response, Bryan at the Pitt Script Blog penned a wonderful piece offering his own assessment of the Pitt-Penn State situation. You should definitely click over for the entire article, but in case you only have time for the cliff notes, Bryan explains how TCU's addition to the Big East takes away a non-conference game from Pitt as an eighth conference game is added to balance out the Big East's league schedule. With an annual series against Notre Dame already established and and, on average, at least two home guarantee games against MAC level and I-AA opponents, the Panthers would be forced to use their final non-conference game on Penn State every year for an annual rivalry. Bryan isn't too fond of that idea.
They [Pitt] sure as hell aren't dropping Notre Dame for anyone - even Penn State - nor should they. As much as you may want to see Penn State on the schedule, would you really want a schedule of I-AA, MAC, Penn State, Notre Dame & 8 Big East games year after year after year? It would be great for the first few years, but as the saying goes, variaty is the spice of life. I'm looking forward the upcoming home-and-home with Virginia Tech. Results aside, I'm sure Penn State fans enjoy the ability to schedule Alabama. I like that Pitt gets to schedule series with Iowa and Navy and Virginia and Michigan State. I'd like to play Penn State, but at the cost of playing the same schedule year after year? No thanks.
This is a reality Pitt hasn't had to face since the old Big East broke up early last decade. For years, Pitt administration had a lot of flexibility to craft a nice non-conference schedule. Now, the Panthers are back in the same less forgiving situation the Nittany Lions have been in the whole time with only four non-conference games to work with, making a deal for any more than one home-and-home less likely.
Further complicating the issue is the Big Ten's proposal to move to nine conference games in the near future. This will severely inhibit Penn State's ability to schedule not only Pitt, but any other non-Big Ten BCS team around the country like Notre Dame, Syracuse and Alabama for any more than a couple of years if it's agreed to. An annual series with the Panthers would really tie the hands of schedule makers looking to offer a solid non-conference schedule and one that makes sense financially.
Sometimes, if I'm at PNC Park for a Pirates game or downtown for whatever reason, I'll look at Heinz Field and think about how great it would be to only have to hop on the T from the South Hills to see Penn State play a football game. That, and of course, watching Penn State beat Pitt would be pretty fantastic.
Ultimately, though, the business of college sports is increasingly precluding both schools for getting anything going on a regular basis. Both schools need seven home games and both schools have precious few non-conference games to get to that number with. It's time the fan bases recognize and accept Pitt-Penn State for what it is today: the best rivalry of words in college football.