While there's been a lot of individual discussion by both Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi and West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen about the Backyard Brawl, not much had come of it. That changed a bit on Tuesday as the coaches came as close to addressing each other as they have to date.
Narduzzi fired the first shot (if you can actually call it that) during a radio interview:
Pat Narduzzi responding to Dana Holgorsen’s "we’re begging to play Pitt" comment: "I never beg"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 28, 2015
I didn't hear the interview so without the proper context, I don't want to read too much into it. But on the surface, that looks like a pretty clear shot at Holgo and West Virginia. He then went on to explain a little more about the reasoning for not rushing to a series with the Mountaineers:
Pat Narduzzi on WVU series: "I’d love to play WVU someday but our instate rivalry (Penn State) is bigger than an out-of-state rivalry"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 28, 2015
Narduzzi is saying what I've (and many others have) been saying for a long time - that Pitt has placed a clear priority on a matchup with Penn State. Athletic director Scott Barnes made that pretty clear and Narduzzi's stance here further indicates how Pitt is, if nothing else, going to handle this with the media. Why aren't they playing West Virginia? Because the Penn State matchup is a bigger deal and if they can lock up that game on an annual basis, there's not much room to fit West Virginia in.
I will personally always think that playing the Mountaineers over other P5 programs such as Oklahoma State makes more sense, but I also understand the various reasons widely speculated why they don't want to play West Virginia (no recruiting advantage, giving West Virginia more exposure in Pittsburgh, the safety issues which have been mentioned, the desire to distance themselves from West Virginia, etc.). All I'm saying is that (Penn State > West Virginia) will likely be the media stance from here on out until the time a game is actually played.
We can debate whether the Panthers should be playing the likes of Iowa, Oklahoma State, Utah, and others, instead of West Virginia. However, the general idea that it's more important to find room for Penn State over the Mountaineers is widely accepted and, to me, absolutely correct.
As West Virginia Illustrated says, Pitt is essentially looking at the West Virginia game in much the same way that the Mountaineers view a game against Marshall - with no real recruiting benefit, why bother?
Holgorsen, as you might expect, didn't take too kindly to Narduzzi's comments. Often, coaches will avoid verbal scraps on Twitter and for as much as we see back and forth, more times than not, things go unaddressed.
Yeah, so that wasn't the case here.
Mountaineers don't back out of a Brawl! #SweetCaroline...— Dana Holgorsen (@Holgorsendana) July 28, 2015
Narduzzi did post a generic follow-up that could, I suppose, be taken as a 'final word' of sorts on the discussion, but it wasn't incendiary at all:
Hail to Pitt!! It's great to be in the ACC Conference!!— Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) July 28, 2015
The Sweet Caroline jab is pretty funny if we're being honest here. And look, I don't fault Holgorsen at all. The Mountaineers clearly want to play the game and as we've known for some time, Pitt has basically said no thanks. West Virginia AD Shane Lyons basically said he'd be patient until Pitt had a new AD in place, and after Barnes was hired, that time has come and gone. Lyons has since come out again and said that the game was a priority for him, but it doesn't sound as if there's been any movement on trying to get the game restarted. The tweet by Holgorsen not only makes it clear that it's the Panthers who are holding up the contest, but it also puts whatever pressure he can on Pitt. Again, you really can't fault him.
Now, is that going to make Barnes hop on the phone and setting up a game immediately? Of course not. But Holgorsen is smart enough to know that by creating a little drama here, it was going to spill over into the media. It's a slow time of year - dreadfully slow. Anything as simple as this is going to create a stir and be right out in the open. And guess what? That's exactly what happened.
CBS Sports immediately posted an article.
And McMurphy, of course, was the ESPN employee that got it started so it's covered by them as well.
The funny part here is that the Backyard Brawl is such a regional rivalry. No one outside of like 300 miles in any direction from Pitt or Morgantown cares much. To see it get so much credit on such a national level really shows just how slow of a time it is.
Sounds like these guys hate each other already.