Pitt Vs. Penn State Football: It's Back ... Finally

"It's exciting for college football fans -- the renewal of one of the most historic and exciting rivalries of all-time returns," Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said during an afternoon press conference to officially announce the series' resumption (courtesy Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

And with that announcement, Pitt vs. Penn State is now officially, 'back on.'

I honestly have to say, that wasn't what I was expecting. There were no heavily leaked rumors about the game possibly happening, no statements from athletic directors saying, 'we're close.' Nothing. And then it just comes out that Pitt and Penn State have decided to renew the historic rivalry.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in all this isn't that it actually got done, but how it got done. With not much talk about it potentially happening, BAM - done deal.

So how did it go down?

ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson has a pretty good timeline of events and it was Penn State, not Pitt, that reached out:

"We’re glad they called," Pederson said. "We’ve always had a great relationship with them. Here you have two great institutions in this state important to the state of Pennsylvania and both Pitt and Penn State fans, from my interaction, were hopeful this game could be played again. However everything came about, it’s good that it did."

So the first kudos, obviously, has to go to PSU for making that call. Sure, Pitt had tried unsuccessfully in the past to get this thing rolling again, but its noteworthy that the Nittany Lions called as they could have easily waited for Pitt to contact them about renewing the series.

The reason for the call? Penn State simply had an opening available and thought it was time to get Pitt on the line:

But this two-game series came about quickly because Penn State had an opening in its nonconference schedule in 2016 and 2017 and needed to get it filled, so Penn State athletic director Tim Curley approached Pederson about it Friday and the deal was quickly done.

Sure, it's easy to point out that the series is only set up for two games right now. Still, the focus should be on the fact that there are going to be games - not only two of them. The fact is that more can easily be added later on if both programs decide it makes sense (and as I debated on SB Nation Pittsburgh a few weeks back, it clearly does). Fans shouldn't be upset that there are only two, they should be excited that the potential for more exists.

That said, the obvious question is 'Will the series continue beyond the two games?' It sounds like there's a chance, but something being done is far from a guarantee.

So, is the rivalry renewed or not?

I asked Pederson if the schools would pursue playing on an annual basis beyond 2017, and he gave a fairly upbeat answer: "Well, Tim and have talked about continuing the conversations and looking out to the future. We’re certainly hopeful that we can continue to come up with ways to play. When this opportunity presented itself, we felt like, ‘Let’s get this done. Let’s get this on the schedule. Then we’ll begin to look at opportunities in the future.’ Tim and I have been longtime friends. We’re going to keep the dialogue going on this and, hopefully, this will be the start of good things."

But there's plenty more to be digested from this...

For starters, I was extremely intrigued to see that Joe Paterno had a 'no comment' on the situation according to the Trib. To me, that's pretty telling. Not a 'Sorry, Joe's busy but he'll get back to you.' No comment? I could be way off on this, but to me that sounds like JoePa didn't have much to do with this. Not that I expect he'll be around in 2016 when the teams face off for the first time, but I still would have expected the standard, 'We're happy to be playing Pitt' response.

Here's another important tidbit:

By the time Pitt and Penn State play Sept. 10, 2016, at Heinz Field — after a 15-season hiatus in the series — their freshman classes will have no recollection of the Panthers playing the Lions in football.

Man, where's the time gone? But seriously - 'Just how interested will Pitt and Penn State even be interested in playing?' is a fair question. Pitt looks forward to playing West Virginia every year in the Backyard Brawl while Penn State looks to Ohio State and Michigan for its big games. It could be that the game is more important to the fans than the actual players by the time 2016 rolls around.
Then there's the whole 'feather in the cap' thing for Pitt AD Steve Pederson (and I'll have more on this later). Pederson, much maligned for things such as getting rid of the popular Pitt script logo, introducing the ugly Panther head logo, and the Mike Haywood hiring should get a lot of praise for helping to bring this game back.
Lastly, you've got the fan reaction? Nittany Lions fans never let a good chance at feeling superior pass them by, so it's no surprise that many of them weren't all that excited about the prospect of playing Pitt.
Ah, it's so good to have the rivalry back.
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