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Pitt and Duquesne unlikely to resume City Game in 2021

Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said on Tuesday that Pitt and Duquesne are not likely to play this year or anytime soon

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

The future of the City Game is in doubt, as Pitt and Duquesne have reached an impasse in their negotiations regarding the game, according to Duquesne head coach Keith Dambrot. The coach said Pitt’s demands have become too unreasonable for Duquesne, as Pitt will only play the game at the Petersen Events Center.

“I would not count on [the City Game being played],” Dambrot told reporters on Tuesday morning. “We talked earlier in the year, and the terms weren’t amiable for us at that point. ... I think they wanted us to go there every year, which we are not going to do.”

“I doubt Pitt and Duquesne will play as long as Coach Capel and Coach Dambrot are the coaches,” Dambrot added. “I’m not going to go play at Pitt every year. Somebody else might, but I’m old and stubborn. I’m not doing that. Again, how many years did they play before us? They didn’t play at Pitt every year.”

While there is still time to reach a deal on the game, it seems that will not come to pass this year, at least as things stand. It also seems the outlook for the future of the City Game is bleak, as Pitt’s about-face on the rivalry game came after the arrival of Pitt head coach Jeff Capel.

Capel has described himself as significantly involved in the creation of Pitt's schedule, and up to this point, he has not prioritized the City Game. As a result, the game has been played just once since he was hired in 2018. The Pitt coach is also under contract until 2027.

When the City Game was canceled in 2019, Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke made a public statement in which she called the rivalry game a “time-honored tradition” and said it would resume in 2020 and 2021. That led to an agreement to resume the series in 2020. Pitt then backed out of that deal, citing the venue, PPG Paints Arena, as the issue. But when Duquesne athletic director Dave Harper offered to play at the Petersen Events Center, the offer was declined. Now, the two sides are in a holding pattern, with Pitt unwilling to budge.

Pitt and Duquesne have been playing the City Game since 1932, and it was last played in 2018. During that 86-year span, 87 games were played, and Pitt accrued a 55-32 record against Duquesne. The only teams Pitt has played more frequently are West Virginia, Syracuse and Penn State. However, Pitt has a losing record in all three of those rivalries, making the City Game series one of few regular, notable successes for the struggling program.

The City Game has been put on the back burner in the past, but it has rarely been canceled several years in a row. If the City Game is not played this season, it will be the longest hiatus the series has seen since a 12-year pause that started in 1940 and ended in 1952.