[Column] Pitt Matchup Is Just Like Any Normal Game For Penn State And That’s Why It’s Going Away
“Anybody who wants to argue and say this is no different than any other week, it is. That’s a fact. If you want to ignore that, you can ignore it. It’s a big game.”
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi is going to die on the hill that his team’s meeting with Penn State is a rivalry. He’s stuck with this approach throughout the three years of this ongoing four-game revival of the Penn State-Pitt series.
James Franklin sits on the other end of that spectrum.
It’s not a slight at the Panthers. It’s just indicative of the true nature of the schools’ relationship: one-way disdain.
Pitt can point to its unusual sellout crowds for the game, the increased attention drawn to its program with a primetime clash, and the overall notability of this game in regard to the rest of its team’s season.
The difference is that Penn State can’t, and that’s why it doesn’t have a reason to commit to the series beyond next season.
Pitt at Beaver Stadium wasn’t Penn State’s highest attended home game last season. The program has recently reentered a positive spotlight with major wins in the last two White Out games, a Big Ten title, and a New Years Six bowl win. If Pitt wasn’t on Nittany Lions’ schedule this season, would any Penn State fan even notice with four top-25 conference clashes awaiting the team?
It’s not an uncommon situation for Penn State. The school that sits nestled in between two major cities and attracts students from the DMV (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) and New York-New Jersey metro areas would naturally brew some hype for a game because of the location.
Rutgers’ highest attended on-campus home game ever was Penn State’s first visit to New Jersey in 19 years in 2014. Temple has sold out Lincoln Financial Field three times since it opened in 2003 — two of those games were when the Nittany Lions were in town. The Maryland Terrapins felt compelled to move their clash in 2015 to Baltimore’s NFL stadium because of the Penn State boost.
No one in their right mind that isn’t attached to one of these schools is calling it Penn State’s rival just because of the location and a biannual-game hype.
It isn’t a matter of direct wins and losses, either. You can point to Pitt’s win in 2016 that kept Penn State from the College Football Playoff to show the competitiveness in the series. But would you do the same for Temple’s win in 2015 or the Nittany Lions’ near loss to Rutgers in 2014?
Whether the program regained its status as a national contender or not in the past three seasons, Penn State would be viewed as a big name in the sport. It still would have the drawing power anywhere it went, which allows it to schedule home-and-homes with just about any Power Five team it wants.
At the end of the day, Penn State didn’t need Pitt to maintain relevance like the Panthers need the Nittany Lions.
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About the Author
ESPN’s signature pregame show will return to the iconic Old Main Lawn on Saturday morning.
Gene Rockey — an employee in Copy Services for the past 26 years — will retire this week after more than 30 years of service to Penn State.
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