When Freeport native Eric Ravotti was a standout linebacker at Penn State, the Nittany Lions were in the midst of their 43rd, 44th, 45th and 46th consecutive seasons in which they played West Virginia.
"It almost felt like a Western PA football game," Ravotti said. "You were playing against kids you know, kids you played against in high school."
More than 21 years since their most recent meeting, Penn State and West Virginia on Thursday announced they will play again -- but not until the layoff reaches 31 years.
The Lions and Mountaineers resume a long-dormant football series with a home-and-home in 2023 and '24, with each school getting an opportunity to open its season against a former traditional eastern rival in its home stadium.
WVU will play at Penn State on Sept. 2, 2023, and the Lions will return the favor the following Aug. 31 at Milan Puskar Stadium.
"I know how exciting it was to play in Beaver Stadium and to have the Nittany Lions come to Morgantown," former West Virginia quarterback and current athletic director Oliver Luck said in a press release.
"Both universities have rich traditions and history, and to be able to revive the memories and the fun is what makes college football so special."
For both Penn State and West Virginia, the other is its third-most common football opponent (interestingly, Pitt and Syracuse rank 1-2 for each). Penn State has lost just nine of 59 meetings, with two ties. The series dates back to 1904, including a game every year from 1947-1992.
"The renewal of our West Virginia rivalry is a series our alumni and fans have wanted to see on our future schedules," Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said in a release. "I am appreciative of the efforts of Oliver Luck in getting our two schools together again."
The Lions' conference schedule expands to nine games in 2016, the first season Penn State regains its bowl eligibility under the current NCAA sanctions. The Big Ten, joining a major-conference trend, has announced it intends to schedule stronger non-conference opponents.
Schedule strength is significant under the criteria for selection for the four-team college football playoff that begins next season. The West Virginia game pairs with a meeting against Virginia Tech Sept. 16 to make for a strong Beaver Stadium non-conference schedule in 2023.
West Virginia is in its second season in the Big 12 after playing in the Big East since 1991. The Mountaineers regularly play Maryland out of conference and will open up next season against Alabama in a neutral-site game at Atlanta's Georgia Dome. The closest conference rival to WVU in terms of proximity is Iowa State -- a 13-hour drive away.
"I think the renewal of this (Penn State) series will be great for the fanbases of the two schools as both locations provide an easy drive," Luck said.
Penn State in recent years has reunited with some of its old rivals from its independent days. The Lions will play Pitt -- a team they've faced just four times since 1992 -- each season from 2016-19.
Penn State also played Syracuse for the third time in six years Aug. 31, and Maryland and Rutgers will join the Big Ten next season.
"It's nice to know that someone cares enough they take the time to make some of these games happen," said Ravotti, a four-year Penn State starter who is now the head coach at Fox Chapel High School. "Anything that relates to Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia getting together again is good for the kids, great for the team and great for the region in general."