For most Pitt fans, it was a time for celebration back in September when Pitt announced they were moving to the ACC. Now, though, we're seeing the negative aspects of conference realignment with the loss of arguably our biggest rival - West Virginia.
With the Mountaineers' move to the Big 12 now official on July 1st, the Backyard Brawl may be over for a while. I don't expect the Mountaineers to be showing up on any future Pitt football schedule for the next few seasons, which is truly a sad sight to see. While WVU fans are no doubt happy to see home match-ups with Oklahoma and TCU next season, most are probably a little upset to not see Pittsburgh on it as well. And Pitt fans should be as well.
Do we hate having to go to Morgantown to play WVU? Yep. Do a couple West Virginia and Pitt fans tend to take the rivalry too far? Undoubtedly. But if we refuse to play West Virginia, are we really any different than Penn State? For years, Pitt has been trying to get an annual series against the Nittany Lions started up. But the constant statement out of State College was that there was no room on the schedule for Pitt. The Panthers' stance is now looking eerily similar to Penn State's. A 100+ year rivalry and there's no room on the schedule? That's not just wrong, it seems criminal.While football is the main focus, what will happen to the basketball series? Bob Huggins would like to continue it and if Jamie Dixon was smart, he should as well.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said today he will speak with Pitt coach Jamie Dixon about continuing the popular basketball series between the two schools after the season. The Mountaineers are moving to the Big 12 in the fall and there are no scheduled games in the future.
Basketball schedules are put together during the summer, but Pitt also has to want to continue the series. Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said he would have to "evaluate his options" concerning the football series with the Mountaineers. Dixon does the basketball schedule on his own. He was noncommital on the WVu series when asked about it in October. He will speak with reporters later today after practice.
Huggins said he would be surprised if the two schools did not find a way to continue the series.
Unlike in football, there's plenty of room on Pitt's non-conference schedule to have an annual game against West Virginia. It'll give fans a game to look forward to in the early part of the season as opposed to playing teams like VMI, North Florida, or South Carolina State and will give the winner a good non-conference win for their tournament resume. And if Pitt can play Robert Morris every year, it makes good sense that room can be found for the Mountaineers.
No offense to Maryland or Syracuse, but games against the Terps or the Orange just don't get my blood boiling quite like seeing that obnoxious gold and blue. Sure, it's fun to see Jim Boeheim get all frazzled as Pitt destroys his 2-3 zone that he's spent 30+ years perfecting and I'm sure beating Randy Edsall will make Pitt fans happy. But will it ever compare to this? Or this? Or this?
In the end, it all comes down to Steve Pederson and if he ever realizes that he will put West Virginia in the same situation that Penn State put Pitt in, maybe talks to resume the series annually will begin. Would an annual series against Penn State be nice? Sure ... and I get the fact that Penn State means a lot more than West Virginia to many fans. But as a younger Pitt fan, I never saw a Pitt-PSU match-up and while it's fun to hate on PSU, it just doesn't do the same thing that WVU does to me. And honestly, do we really expect Penn State to ever agree to an annual home-and-home series with Pitt, anyway?
Let's be honest - the Notre Dame series is great. It puts Pitt on national television every time and draws a lot of interest. But Notre Dame probably wouldn't flinch if Pitt wasn't on the schedule - especially now that the Panthers won't be in the Big East much longer as the Irish must play conference opponents in football as part of their agreement with the Big East. And Pitt has plenty of opportunities to get on national television in the ACC when they play teams like Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State, or Clemson. And quite frankly, I wouldn't be upset to see Notre Dame replaced on the schedule with West Virginia.
But West Virginia is different. We're happy when we win and sad when we lose to any opponent, but those feelings are amplified against the Mountaineers. Why should playing only three non-conference games mean that we can only have one marquee non-conference opponent? If we want to be the best, let's play the best teams to prove it and not skate through to a BCS bid through a weak non-conference schedule like Virginia Tech did this season.
Pitt. Don't pull a Penn State and deny fans a chance to see a great rivalry. Continue the series with West Virginia.