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Pitt-Penn State: Why the Panthers Don't Need the Rivalry

Bill O'Brien would like to resume Pitt-PSU.
Bill O'Brien would like to resume Pitt-PSU.

We've had a few days to let Bill O'Brien's words sit and let people form their own various opinions. Many Pitt fans, no doubt, would like to see the renewal of a football series as would those on the other side.

I, on the other hand, do not feel Pitt needs the series. Or rather, not as much as some fans seem to think. Pitt does not need Penn State just like Penn State does not need Pitt. It's a fact that some of the older fans may be shocked to hear, but it's true. Pitt Script Blog did a great piece on it last year and here are my thoughts.

It will be 16 years since Pitt last played Penn State by the time the two renew the series. Has either side truly suffered as a result? Penn State has had several great seasons since then. Pitt has replaced the rivalry with Penn State with the Backyard Brawl, one of the best rivalries in all of college sports. The Brawl, as we know it, anyway, is over, but the point is that Penn State was replaceable.

Pitt, as we all know, hasn't been that great for a while. Would Pitt have been any better over the past decade had they played Penn State? Sure, in the early part of the decade when the Lions weren't all that great, it would have been nice to beat up on them. But, in reality, Pitt would have lost more against Penn State than they would have won recently. And that would have hurt the Panthers in recruiting in-state prospects, and ultimately, on the field. And even if Pitt had won, Pitt's season isn't won or lost by that game. It certainly helps to win, but it isn't the only thing.

Then there's the oft-quoted, beaten-to-death two-for-one discussion.

Penn State fans will point out that they should only accept the series if Pitt agrees to a 2 for 1 series, with two games obviously at Beaver Stadium for every one at Heinz. Pitt should never agree to that for good reason since they still have an athletic department to fund, too. The good news for the series is that Penn State and Pitt found a way to agree to the short two-game series without that stipulation.

Financially, the matter becomes complex with the ACC move. The Panthers have less flexibility and instead of five non-conference games a year, will have only three. Consider Pitt's average cupcake flavor of the season. Youngstown State, Maine, New Hampshire, and the like. Should the series resume, the logical choice would be to replace one of these usually lopsided victories with a game against PSU. But Pitt ends up losing money in this scenario for every time they travel to State College. They have one less regularly scheduled FCS/MAC school to provide revenue for the athletic department. I don't care how boring the game may appear on paper or how small of a crowd might show up - that is revenue that the athletic department needs to fund other sports.

Perhaps Pitt could replace an AQ school with Penn State, but that would mean Pitt giving up games against teams like Iowa, Utah, Nebraska, or Texas A&M as they've had in recent years. Those games aren't the same as rivalry games against Penn State, but it is nice to play some different teams once in a while.

Then there are the Irish. Pitt likely will try to keep the Notre Dame game around as well as it is a national game that will always get picked up by a major network. I just don't see Pitt dropping Notre Dame from the schedule unless the Irish are the ones to cancel it. On the other side, I'm sure Penn State enjoys scheduling teams like Alabama. Soon, the B1G and the Pac-12 will also have their teams play a school from the other conference, so there's less flexibility there as well. Establishing an annual game against Pitt then limits PSU to two non-conference games - both of which will be likely cupcake opponents. They have an athletic department to fund, too, and offer more sports.

Would Pitt-Penn State be a good thing to have back? Sure - it's great to a have a team to hate. But it is going to take a lot to get the series back to being a regular part of the schedule.

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