Pitt parted ways with athletic director Steve Pederson recently, and with the hiring of Pat Narduzzi as the team's new head football coach, the search for a new AD now goes under the spotlight.
First things first - there are bigger fish to fry than this. I get that. But let's ask the question, anyway: What becomes of the Backyard Brawl?
Pederson seemingly took a stance of placing Pitt's rivalry with West Virginia on the back burner, after both schools left the Big East. A few times, the idea of playing the game surfaced, but Pederson has generally been non-committal about it. With him gone, however, I'm wondering if Pitt will open up to the idea of kickstarting the Backyard Brawl.
West Virginia, for their part, has always seemed to be a little more interested in the game. Dana Holgorsen previously came out and said he wanted it, while Paul Chryst has always been more 'meh' on the idea. I can't recall Jamie Dixon insisting the game take place, but Bob Huggins is all for it. The holdup here seems to be on Pitt's end. It's worth pointing out, of course, that part of the response by Pitt's coaches could be based on Pederson being against the game.
The real question here, obviously, is if the disdain for playing West Virginia extends beyond Pederson. My guess is that it does since I find it hard to believe that the athletic director alone could stop the game from happening. However, Pederson's influence in that area would have been significant, and with Mark Nordenberg not taking as much as an active role in athletics, his opinion certainly counted for a great deal.
Don't get me wrong - one person on his own can hijack a series. It may be up for debate, but according to Dave Wannstedt, that's exactly what happened with Joe Paterno and the Pitt-Penn State game. Adding fuel to that idea is that the two schools scheduled the game for several years down the road when it was believed that Paterno would no longer be around. Pederson, of course, didn't have Paterno's pull, however.
There are few logical reasons for not playing each other in basketball. There are slightly more legit reasons for not playing each other in football with fewer non-conference games available. However, in both cases, the reasons to play each other outweigh the 'cons'.
Recruiting is often used as a reason to not schedule West Virginia. But while the idea of keeping them out of western Pennsylvania seems like a good one on the surface, the fact is that the schools are only about an hour apart. West Virginia has, and will continue to recruit, in western Pennsylvania. In other words, not playing the game isn't going to prevent kids from going to the Mountaineers.
The decision to play West Virginia will probably come down to the new athletic director and Chancellor Gallagher. Narduzzi doesn't really have a history with the Backyard Brawl, so I'm not sure how much he cares at this point.
Pederson's exit means that restarting the Brawl, at the very least, will be considered.
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