- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
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It seems as if most officials at Penn State and Pitt aren’t so sure about extending next season’s four-year series. Count Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi as the clear exception.
“To me, why not keep the money in state and play [a game between] the two best schools in the state?” he asked during a Tuesday banquet in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “I’m a firm believer that you keep those rivalries going as long as you can, especially in state.”
If only the opinions of the other key players were so clear-cut. New Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes has only said that he’ll look into the matter, while Penn State AD Sandy Barbour took 41 seconds to answer the question earlier this month without offering a “yes” or “no” on whether to extend the rivalry.
Penn State coach James Franklin has also been somewhat inconsistent about the issue. He told ESPN.com last July that he was in favor of an annual Penn State-Pitt game because it’d “be great for the state, great for college football.” But, when asked earlier this week about an annual series with Pitt or Temple, he said that, “You could make arguments in both directions. … We’ve just got to look at it from every angle.”
Penn State and Pitt are less than 150 miles apart have played 96 times since 1893 -- but they haven’t met since 2000. Next year’s Sept. 10 matchup will be the first in 16 years.
It’s a shame because this is a rivalry that both fan bases clearly want to become an annual affair. We polled readers two summers ago about what nonconference foe they’d most like to see Penn State play. And, unsurprisingly, the opponent we heard time and time again was none other than Pitt.
The issue has grown a bit more complicated since then for the Nittany Lions, but fans’ attitudes haven’t changed. With the B1G expanding to nine conference games next season, for example, Penn State now has fewer future opportunities to schedule with Pitt -- especially considering it's already scheduled several games for 2020 and beyond. There’s also the issue of the number of home games since, if PSU visits Heinz Field, it could have as few as six -- when it’s had between seven and eight home games for the last 10 seasons. (One fewer game is a significant financial impact for a small town of 42,000.)
“That’s certainly one of those places where I need to listen and learn,” Barbour said.
It's not a simple issue. But, if our unscientific poll was any indication, chances are Penn State fans are going to echo Narduzzi’s sentiment from earlier this week: Make the Penn State-Pitt series stick.
Fans are in favor of an annual Penn State-Pitt game, but scheduling such a series is anything but easy.