Annual PSU-Pitt game remains unlikely

Posted by on May 8, 2012

Here we go again.


Every year about this time, the subject of the Penn State-Pitt football rivalry

sprouts like May flowers.


Just less than a year ago, then-Pitt coach Todd Graham said he wanted to

renew the once-bitter rivalry with the Nittany Lions. Graham’s gone now after

a rocky one-year tenure, but his replacement, Paul Chryst, expressed similar

sentiments during a stop in York last week. So did Pitt athletic director Steve



Of course, that’s nothing new. Pitt officials have long expressed a desire to play

Penn State on an annual basis.

What is new, however, is the fact that Bill O’Brien, Penn State’s new head football

coach, agrees with the Pitt folks. He said so last weekend in an interview with a

Pittsburgh newspaper.


“I would love to see that game played on an annual basis,” O’Brien told the

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Friday. “I have a tremendous amount of respect

for Paul Chryst and their program, and that’s a great rivalry. For the fans of

Pennsylvania to be able to see that game every year, I think that’s pretty neat.”


On the surface, O’Brien’s support would seem pivotal in rekindling the rivalry on

an annual basis. That’s because O’Brien’s predecessor — one Joseph Vincent

Paterno — was long considered a major hurdle to the Lions and Panthers

renewing their cat fight. Paterno, it’s believed, held a grudge against Pitt for a

variety of reasons, most notably the fact that Pitt helped to scuttle Paterno’s

plan for an Eastern all-sports conference in the early 1980s. 


Whatever, the reasons, the two Pennsylvania rivals haven’t met since 2000.

Last June, however, the two schools announced a two-year series in 2016 and

2017. Now both head coaches have publicly come out in support of an annual

Penn State-Pitt game.


Now O’Brien just has to convince his bosses, but that could be problematic.

Penn State’s bean counters have long insisted that the Lions must play three of

their four non-conference games at home each season in order to keep the

athletic program afloat. If that remains the case, it would be difficult to squeeze

in an annual home-and-home series with Pitt. Playing Pitt each season would

severely hamper PSU’s scheduling flexibility. It could also hurt the athletic

program’s bottom line, if it forced PSU to play two non-conference away games

in a given year.


An occasional two-year Penn State-Pitt series, like the one planned in a few

years, seems much more likely.

That may not be enough to satisfy most Penn State or Pitt fans, or the Penn

State or Pitt coaches. But it will likely have to do for now.


Reach Steve Heiser at or at 854-1575, ext. 455. 

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