The in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pittsburgh will finally be renewed in 2016. Stop me if you have heard this before, but the new athletics director at Pittsburgh is eyeing a more long-term relationship between the two in-state power conference programs.
Scott Barnes is just now getting situated as the new AD at Pittsburgh, and he has his hopes of getting his Panthers on Penn State’s schedule for years to come. Maybe it is playing to the people to a certain degree, but the comments from Barnes continue to leave the door of possibility open for a long-term series deal between Penn State and Pittsburgh. If nothing else, Barnes now leaves it to his counterpart at Penn State, Sandy Barbour, to take the next step.
“Penn State, for us, we want to play that game as long as we can, home-and-home,” Barnes said, per The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We’re working hard to try to move that forward.”
According to the story, one of the first phone calls he made after taking over the job was to Barbour. The purpose of the call was to stress the importance of the series.
We have come a long way in the approach each school has seemed to have to the rivalry. While the importance of keeping seven home games is still crucial for Penn State, the sparks are flying left and right on both sides to get the series back up and running for a longer period of time. The biggest obstacle, of course, is differences in scheduling philosophies in the Big Ten and ACC.
The Big Ten is using a nine-game conference schedule starting in 2016, which will limit some of what Penn State will be able to do with scheduling. The nine-game conference schedule format will put Penn State on the road in conference play for five games every other year (odd-numbered seasons starting in 2017). This leaves four home games in conference play and three non-conference games to get to seven home games, which is the bare minimum Penn State will operate with unless getting an opportunity to cash in on a big neutral site match-up in Arlington or Atlanta. Penn State has scheduled home non-conference games in 2017 (including Pitt) and has two spots to fill in 2019 (Pitt at home again), and expect two more home games scheduled those seasons as well. Penn State also has home-and-home deals with West Virginia (2023-2024) and Virginia Tech (2020, 2025) lined up to give Penn State home game sin those odd-numbered seasons.
The ACC uses an eight-game conference schedule, but includes Notre Dame on a rotating schedule for all ACC members and requires each member to schedule one non-conference game each season against a power conference opponent. For Pittsburgh, this figures to help reignite the long-time rivalries with Penn State and perhaps, someday, West Virginia. Barnes has his sights set on Penn State ahead of WVU though. For Pitt, being able to work out a long-term deal with Penn State would eliminate the stress of scheduling other power conference opponents to satisfy the ACC scheduling requirement. But when is the earliest that could happen? Thanks to programs scheduling so many years out, it may not happen for quite some time.
The upcoming four-year series (which is actually two separate two-year home-and-home deals lined up back-to-back) concludes in 2019. Pitt still has a schedule vacancy to fill in 2020, but also has Notre Dame on the schedule at home that season. Pittsburgh then has a home-and-home with Tennessee scheduled in 2021-2022, and Cincinnati in 2023-2024. Notre Dame also rotates back on the Pitt schedule in 2023 (and 2025) as well. Juggling so many scheduling commitments between Pittsburgh and Penn State means any hope there is a long-term series arrangement is not likely to happen anytime before 2020, as much as you might like to see it happen.