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Pitt drops 2019 City Game, adds Robert Morris matchup

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NCAA Basketball: Duquesne at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt’s local rival to the west, Robert Morris, will unveil its new basketball arena in 2019, and the Colonials’ opponents for their first game at the Moon Township facilty will be the Panthers, according to statements issued by Pitt and Robert Morris on Thursday morning.

”We’re extremely thrilled to open the UPMC Events Center against the University of Pittsburgh,” Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole said. “Going up against a quality, local opponent from the Atlantic Coast Conference that is extremely well coached is a great opportunity for our program. The opening of our new arena with our first game against the Panthers will be a historic day not only for our program but for the Robert Morris University community and the region.”

Thursday’s announcement came on the heels of a controversy surrounding the City Game between Pitt and Duquesne, as Mike Vukovcan of Pittsburgh Sports Now reported on Wednesday that the two schools had reached an impasse in their negotiations regarding the 2019 iteration of the game.

The following day, it was reported by multiple outlets that the City Game would not be played in 2019. Those reports were confirmed by Pitt in a press release issued Thursday evening.

“The City Game is a time honored basketball tradition in the city of Pittsburgh,” Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said in the release. “Unfortunately, our men’s basketball scheduling dynamics will not allow us to play the game in 2019. We look forward to resuming the game with great anticipation in 2020 and 2021.”

The statement from Lyke marks the end of a 48-year streak, as the City Game had been played every season since 1970. But with that said, the game is expected to resume in 2020, as Pitt and Duquesne have agreed in principle to resume the series after a one-year hiatus.

“We are pleased to work with the University of Pittsburgh and our valued partners at PPG Paints Arena to continue the City Game in 2020 and 2021,” Duquesne athletic director Dave Harper said. “The very title ‘City Game’ is profound. This is a game for the city of Pittsburgh and its sports fans. It is an event circled on calendars each year. Duquesne is fully committed to participating in this game long term and honored to be part of this event for the city."

A contributing factor to the scheduling controversy is the fact that Pitt must account for an ACC schedule that will expand to 20 games in the upcoming season. The conference already revealed that Pitt will face Florida State in its season-opening game on Nov. 6, and another ACC game will be scheduled for early December. Timing alone could be the cause of the scheduling issue, as Pitt played Duquesne on Nov. 30 in 2018 and on Dec. 1 in 2017.

The game between Pitt and Robert Morris has been scheduled for Nov. 12. No date has been set for the 2020 resumption of the City Game.