Bring Back The Hate: Renew The Pitt-Penn State Rivalry

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.

  • ScatterBack

    I still don’t think it’s worth it to have PSU alums make a multi-million dollar donation to Pitt’s athletic department. Sorry you live in Pittsburgh and have to deal with their fans.

    • Jeff

      I see what you’re getting at (re: forcing PSU fans to purchase some sort of ticket package just to get into this one game), but I think that’s one thing we could hopefully work out. If they can work out a deal in principle and then Pitt tries to hold the deal hostage with this type of shenanigans, then I agree with you. Unless this is the result of a give-and-take negotiation, maybe this is what has to happen if Pitt will concede to the two-for-one or other schedule makeup.

  • Tony

    The Pure Penn State fans (Most of Them) know that a Pitt and Penn State rivalry Doesn’t matter and is not good for Penn State Football as a business or as a program trying to make it’s program better. For the same reason you brought up Indiana State, Kent State and Youngstown State Penn State doesn’t need another cupcake team that plays in a cupcake conference. Pitt’s program has been clearly on the way down with most of the Big East Teams. For the same reason Pitt basketball should not play Penn State stinking basketball is the same reason Penn State Football should not play Pitt in Football. We have Ohio State (Much more exciting and more fun to root against then Pitt, Times are very different)and many excellent teams in the Big Ten. They (Ohio State)are high quality, they atually have more then 20K fans and people care to watch on the national level. Penn State is Big time on the TV numbers and scheduling Pitt as well as all the other cupcakes won’t help the program cause. I like to watch Penn State play the Akron’s but games like that and if Pitt were included on the schedule will not help TV watch give a rats. It’s also about the fan across the county that want’s to watch a good game. There are many other better programs to play in the non-conf schedule. Penn State is not the second most profitable football program for nothing but to be so you need more national viewers.

    • Mike Pettigano

      That’s a hell of a case against renewal. I tend to want renewal more than not, but I agree that the logistics and economics of BCS-era college football don’t have much room for PSU-Pitt. If Pitt had been invited to the Big Ten, I would have been very happy. But as long as Pitt remains an add-on game, I don’t think any series longer than a single home-and-home or 2for1 series is worth it.

      • Jeff

        Florida-Florida State has happened yearly for 55 years. UM-ND is now on its 27th year in a row. And I’m sure there are others.

        It’s definitely getting harder to keep a non-conference rivalry alive, but it’s not, as of yet, impossible.

        The economic inequities cited are hurdles, for sure. But there is no reason PSU can’t play a regular series with a BCS Big Six conference opponent. Even if that opponent is in the dying Big East, isn’t that better than two or three MACrifices per year?

      • Mike Pettigano

        Not saying I don’t think PSU can work it. I’ve long wanted Pitt back on, just as you said with examples like UM-ND, FSU-UF.

  • psufan04

    It’s just not worth it for us to play pitt. If we play and beat them, we’re a football school so we were supposed to beat them. If we play and lose to them it looks bad for a number of reasons(they’re a bball school, they play in a less prestigious conference, etc…). Add in the economic stuff and there are just way too many reasons to not play the game.

    • Jeff

      I definitely see your point, and don’t necessarily disagree. But to play devil’s advocate for a second – then why do we schedule any cupcake OOC team, including the ones I named above? Is Indiana State a football school? What about our other “marquee” upcoming OOC games against Rutgers, Virginia, and Navy? Virginia actually scares me a little with Al London getting them on the right track, but what do we have to gain playing Rutgers? Or Ed’s Navy?

  • nittanyjo

    Would I like to play pitt – heck yea! Would it be better than playing Akron or a few other teams we have played lately – sure! Will it happen – no! So lets drop it and forget about it until we get a new coach, then it maybe considered.

  • kingofsmoke

    When B1G goes to 9 conference games, they will only play one decent big 6 team. No reason to play more. more. I wouldn’t call Navy a marquee game, maybe they will. In the seasons that you only get 4 conf home games all of the OOC’s will have to be at home. I think it pretty much ends our deal with Temple, no way they gonna take the loss by playing 6 home games. The reason they play Rutgers is because of the Alums in NYC. The reason they are playing Virginia, is that is a key to our recruiting area. They had Syracuse, Nebraska, Notre Dame and now Alabama. They want to spread around that oppponent. If Pitt wants to get in line every 10-12 years for a 2 game series that’s fine. There just isn’t a need to play them every year. They had their chance to let us in the Big East, They let us dangle, in the A 10. I feel no obligation to bail them out now by giving them a sell out every other year they couldn’t get on their own.

  • PSUguy

    I would love to play Pitt just for the simple fact of keeping there fans quiet. I don’ think the hold-up is Joe. I think its more of the 1 and 1 that pitt wants and the 2 for 1 penn state wants.

  • Litany4Nittany

    I really don’t see how you ignore this rivalry. The most fertile of all the Penn State recruiting grounds is in Pittsburgh/ western Pennsylvania. Is it at least partial coincidence that Penn State which suffered it’s worst era of football, due to a lack talent, coincide with the end of the Pitt-Penn State rivalry? How many western Pennsylvanian’s have we recruited in recent years compare to the 80′s and early 90′s? Western PA kids go to Ohio State and Pitt before Penn State. I know since 2003 we have been able expand into NY, NJ, and MD/DC to obtain more talent. But outside TX, FL, and CA what other area is better to recruit than western Pennsylvania? If you bring the rivalry back, start winning, you change the perceptive about Penn State. You get these 4 and 5 star running backs, quarterbacks ect. If the program really wants to dominate, they push Ohio State out of western Pennsylvania. We shouldn’t have to play UVA to out recruit UVA, this is Penn State. Just saying…

  • Anonymous

    Um who are these 4 star and 5 star RB’s we missed on in W PA? W PA has been down in talent which is why they de emphasized recruiting the area. They still get pretty much whoever they want. Maryland, Jersey and Virginia produce more talent. Simple as that. The only guy they tried to recruit there and lost that i remember was Pryor. And in retrospect I’m glad we missed on him.