May 19, 2011

Don’t Pitt on Me: The Argument Against Renewing the “Rivalry”

Incoming Pitt head coach Todd Graham recently commented during a meeting with the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association that he "would actually love to play that game [Pitt-Penn state] in the future." Of course this gets debated almost every year to the point that it's like kicking a dead horse. So…. let's roll the old mare over and start kicking some more. In part one or our riveting point-counterpoint series, I take on Jeff on the topic of renewing the Pittsburgh – Penn State "rivalry."

Last year I SOUNDLY1 defeated Tim in the start/bench Newsome debate and I started off with a SNL reference so this year I'm going with Even Stevphen. Hey if there's one thing ESPN has taught2 me it's the guy that yells the loudest wins the argument; and I like to yell.

It's about the scheduling

I'll start with my weakest argument and go from there. Hey I like to pound it on the ground to loosen up the D, and then hit them with the bomb later. Just looking at the current scheduling now, Pitt plays Notre Dame for the foreseeable future, in fact Pitt is Notre Dame's fifth most played team, and that isn't changing. Pitt plays Iowa this season and again in 2014 and 2015. In '12, Pitt picks up Virginia Tech for two seasons and in '13 NC State comes to town. My point: the Pitt schedule is already filled with at least 2 if not 3 quality non-con opponents and in the modern era of football, no one plays more than two schools that can demand home and home series. Every team is loading up on cupcakes that come take their beating and their check for playing.

While we're on the subject of scheduling; one of the sticking points in the past was Pitt's reluctance to do anything more than a home and home agreement. Penn State has a very big bone to pick about this. First off, when Pitt and Penn State last played, if Penn State fans wanted to travel to Pittsburgh to see the game they had to buy their Pitt-Penn State ticket and were forced to buy an additional garbage ticket as well. If ever there was a rip off of a deal, there you have it. Also the Pitt-Penn State "rivalry" has been played in Penn State 24 times. Guess how many times it was played in Pittsburgh? 71!!! Penn State has played almost three times as many games in Pittsburgh, it's time to even that out a bit. If Pitt would offer a 2 for 1 deal for a 3 or 6 year contract with the addition of a home and home series for a total of 8 years, Penn State would have no choice but to accept, but Pitt isn't in the giving mood. If Pitt REALLY wanted it, they could force Penn State's hand, but it's not going to happen.

It's all about Paterno

The common opinion around the college football universe is that Joe Paterno holds a grudge against Pitt. In the late 70's when Penn State was a football independent, Paterno (and Penn State) tried to get into the Big East. The Big East never responded (how's that decision looking today Big East) so Paterno set out to create an eastern all-sports conference. He asked Pitt, Boston College and Syracuse to join PSU. BC and Syracuse didn't budge because Pitt jumped into the Big East in basketball but remained a football independent, thus crushing Joe's dream. Paterno never forgave Pitt.

Now some will argue that Paterno doesn't have the power to override the administration when it comes to the football schedule. These are the same people that think their political party isn't the legal equivalent of the mafia. If you examine Penn State's non-con scheduling over the years, even when it comes to the patsies, more times than not, the coaching staff of the opposing team has some tie to Penn State. Either the school was an old rival (Syracuse) or the opposing staff has erstwhile Penn State players (Temple). Paterno has a very big say in the scheduling and he doesn't want to play Pitt, and I don't blame him.

It's all about the "rivalry"

The biggest misconception around the interwebs is that the Penn State - Pitt game was both teams biggest rivalry. Let's start off by defining a rival:

rival [ˈraɪvəl] n
- a person or thing that is considered the equal of another or others
- to be the equal or near equal of

Most pundits will point out that Penn State's record with Pitt is a rival-esque 50-42-4. Yes the overall series is close but let's take a closer look. I'm the elder here at LB-U. Born in 1973, I do remember wanting to beat Pitt, and I vaguely remember some bad blood between students of each university when I was younger but what I remember most is Penn State soundly owning Pitt through the decades I was a young lad. Here, let me give you a visual aid. Here is a list of the "rivalry" from the time Paterno took over at Penn State.

You don't need to read it, the games that have a gold background are games that Pitt won and the games with the Navy background are games that PSU won. That's a big ole' sea of blue!! Paterno is 23-7-1 against Pitt. That's not equality, that's not even in the same time zone of equality. Paterno has soundly beaten Pitt in his time at dear ole state.

Back to the whole age thing, some of the writers here are just now or recently have graduated (ed. note- kudos for you gentlemen). When they were growing up the Penn State – Pitt series was coming to an end with Penn State winning all the games in that decade except one. Penn State had entered the Big Ten and the significance of PSU – Pitt dwindled. The mutual hatred between the two schools existed when I was a young lad (Pitt students would chant "Penn State sucks" at Pitt basketball games not involving Penn State) but that doesn't exist anymore. The kids suiting up for Penn State now barely remember Penn State playing Pitt, do you think they'll look at Pitt as their main rival? No, the two teams have gone their separate directions. It's like a mutual breakup of a bad relationship. Penn State see's Pitt in the streets every now and again, stops long enough to talk about what they're up to but as they part they're both glad the thing ended.

If Penn State were to schedule Pitt in the future the game just wouldn't have the build-up it once did. Penn State already puts a lot of heart and soul into Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin; now throw Nebraska in the mix every year and there just isn't enough charge left in the emotional battery for Pitt. The series and what was left of the rivalry died a long time ago. Leave it rest in peace.

Tune in Monday for Jeff's witty retort; I'm sure he'll pose a pretty convincing case.

1At least in my mind, and hey… Newsome didn't start so suck on that Timmy boy! That makes me right by default. Ha!2Just kidding. The only thing that ESPN taught me is that a great sports channel can turn into a garbage pile of sports-tainment in a very short amount of time 

Should Penn State & Pitt renew their football rivalry?

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  1. Excellent. The rebuttal hate will flow this weekend whilst I craft my "witty retort."

  2. Yeah, that "had to buy an extra ticket" deal was truly unfair. In a related matter, can you point me to the place on the athletics website where I can buy a single game ticket please? I've been poking around for a while now, but all I keep getting is a link for a season ticket application, and possibly waiting for the chance to buy a ticket from an existing season ticket holder? Wow, the color of your glasses it truly blinding, sir.

  3. I recall JoePa stating that PITT wants a one-for-one series. The Athletic Department is against it because of ticket sales revenue. Pitt is unwilling to do a two-for-one series and are unwilling to split ticket sales in their rinky-dink stadium. Meanwhile, Temple is willing to split ticket revenue at the much larger Lincoln Financial Field. So as long as the Temple series remains profitable, it will be very unlikely that Pitt will find its way on to the PSU schedule... Plus, Philly has a larger PSU Alumni base. Temple is our new rival! SH!T on PITT!!!