In the first Point/Counterpoint of the season, Galen and I were set to debate the Pitt-Penn State rivalry in light of Pitt head coach Todd Graham’s comment that “[Pitt] would actually love to play that game in the future.” Last Thursday, Galen led off with his anti-renewal post “Don’t Pitt on Me.”
Nine years my elder, I did not expect Galen to be anti-renewal, as we’ve been led to believe by fans and analysts elsewhere that this rivalry only matters to the older fans. Well we’ve traded positions, as the younger fan is pro-renewal and the elder statesmen says let sleeping dogs lay. Well, Galen. Here is why we should renew the rivalry.
A Rebuttal – On Scheduling, Money, Joseph Vincent and “Rivalries”
The scheduling/money argument is definitely valid, but I’d like to think that if some sort of series were to be restarted, that these conflicts could be worked out. I don’t see them as death knells for the series, but more of obstacles that need to be dealt with. There is no doubt that economic inequity exists in a home-and-home series. I’d like to believe that this could be worked out in some better fashion that in years past.
A bigger scheduling threat than Pitt’s already loaded OOC schedule is the notion that the Big Ten might one day move to a nine-game conference schedule. If/when that happens, marquee matchups on a yearly basis, for Penn State at least, will likely be finished. With an estimated 7.5 home games per year average needed to sustain the university’s athletic program budget, a home-and-home with Alabama, Pitt or anyone else just doesn’t make economic sense. The only way around this is with creative scheduling that Galen alluded to in his post. If Pitt wants to play a base two-for-one series, the number crunchers might be able to make that work.
As for the Paterno argument, it’s one that many Pitt fans will point to when asked why they don’t play Penn State every year. But I’m not sure how much water it holds. The Eastern Conference put forth by Paterno never materialized in the 1970′s or 1980′s, but Penn State and Pitt played up to and including 2000. If Paterno held such a grudge, why didn’t they cut it off immediately? I’m not sure exactly what was the beginning of the end for the series, but I don’t think it was entirely Paterno’s fault. It probably had more to do with the money (doesn’t it always?) than the stubbornness of Joe.
Finally, Galen argues that the Pitt-Penn State rivalry isn’t a rivalry because Penn State has dominated it recently. Well that might be true, but I have two things to say about that. 1) Ohio State has dominated their rivalry with Michigan as of late, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop playing. Just because one team goes on a hot streak shouldn’t mean the rivalry lost any luster. And 2), while Penn State may have dominated the series of late, Pitt won the most important game, the most recent one. And that aggression will not stand.
Bring Back the Hate
Because of 12-0. Because of geography. Because of history. For many reasons, bring back the hate. But if for no other reason, because of Indiana State, Kent State, and Youngstown State. I love Penn State football just as much as the next guy, but these cupcake out of conference matchups are killing me. The stadium is half-full by kickoff, even a slight hangover is enough for students to stay home instead, and it’s really not that interesting. You know Penn State is going to win (with some exceptions), but you also know they will do it with a vanilla offense and a “bend but don’t suck” defense.
Instead, I’d rather see a yearly matchup with a Big Six conference team. There would still be room for Alabama now and then, and since we’re not exactly fielding a Murderer’s Row of OOC games on a yearly basis anyway, plugging in a recurring rivalry shouldn’t be too much effort for scheduling purposes.
Galen harkens to days of yore, when he was a young’un, to show that kids these days just don’t feel the same about Pitt as they once did. Well that is partly due to the fact that we haven’t played them in 11 years. I bet the hate would still be flowing if they were on our schedule every year. I can definitely attest to the fact that Pitt fans still hold resentment for Penn State. Those “Penn State Sucks” chants that Galen referred to actually still occur – simply watch a Pitt basketball game and sooner or later you’ll hear one. Maybe living in Pittsburgh (and actually having a degree from the University of Pittsburgh) is biasing my argument, since it is a rarity that I go to the South Side and run into Pitt fans and DON’T get into some sort of heated argument. But with a yearly rivalry, Penn State fans around the country can experience the hate that is strong in the ‘burgh.
In the end, this isn’t my decision and it isn’t your decision. This series likely won’t resume until a change at the top at Penn State occurs. The new Pitt regime has already expressed their willingness to play us; why can’t we return the favor and take back what is rightfully ours? 12-0 still haunts my dreams…here’s to a 63-0 win in the 2015 season. Hell, I’ll even take a 6-4 victory.