Scheduling issues prevent extension of Pitt-PSU series

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

CHICAGO — Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour echoed football coach James Franklin in regard to extending the Pitt arrangement.

Penn State and Pitt will renew their football rivalry Sept. 10 at Heinz Field, the first meeting since 2000. The teams have a four-game agreement for home-and-home series 2016-19, but Barbour and Franklin cited scheduling as to why this arrangement hasn’t gone beyond 2019.

Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi and athletic director Scott Barnes have expressed their interest in making this a yearly game. Barnes even approached Barbour about an extension but said Barbour rebuffed him.

“It wasn’t a matter of [being] not as interested,” Barbour said. “We’re taking a look at our scheduling philosophy, so we have to determine where that fits. We’re very interested in playing Pitt. Obviously, we’ve got a four-game series coming up, and we’re really looking forward to it. I’ve never been a part of a Pitt-Penn State game, and I think it’s going to be vibrant. But we have to come up with a long-term scheduling philosophy, of which you’ve seen us come out with the fact that we’re playing Auburn [in 2021-22], and where does Pitt fit in that?”

Barbour said the school always is looking into scheduling Power Five regional rivalries such as Pitt, West Virginia and Virginia Tech while also mixing in more national, intersectional rivalries such as Auburn.

Concussions, misconduct: Big Ten Conference commissioner Jim Delany, who USA Today reported will retire in 2020, commented on several hot topics — that weren’t negative recruiting — in a news conference Tuesday at Big Ten media days in Chicago.

He said the Big Ten is in the second year of its independent spotter program, and all 14 conference schools have filed their concussion-management plan with the NCAA. Delany, however, didn’t say if there were any plans to follow the NFL’s new procedure of penalizing teams that fail to follow concussion protocols.

“We work closely with our doctors and trainers, and we have expectations that they will follow the concussion-management plan that we have,” Delany said. “There’s an incredible emphasis on following those concussion-management plans, and they’ll be monitored on a week-to-week basis. And, in part, that’s why we have an independent spotter program, to coordinate with them to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make sure that the experience is as safe as it can be.”

While other conferences such as the Pac-12, SEC and Big 12 have transfer rules that limit schools from admitting players who committed serious misconduct — those who have been convicted or pled guilty or no contest to crimes such as sexual assault or domestic violence — at their previous university, Delany said the Big Ten believes “the facts and circumstances closest to the ground are the places those decisions ought to be made.”

Delany said he has had discussions among the conference’s athletic directors, faculty and presidents as well as outside legal counsel and Title IX and Cleary Act experts about the issue but came to the conclusion that local action is best.

“I think just as you’ve seen these policies executed, and, in some cases, they work, in some cases, they fail to work,” Delany said. “So we’ve got a lot of confidence in the commitment by our institutions. [We are] totally committed to reducing and if not eliminating violence, sexual violence in every way.”

Satellite vs. INvasion: While Franklin and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh have become key figures in the satellite camp craze this summer, Indiana coach Kevin Wilson has taken a bit of a different approach.

Wilson said Indiana has been “a lot slower than a lot of the other guys” when it comes to recruiting, trying to take their time and earn the respect, trust and loyalty of prospective players. His staff participated in some satellite camps this summer in places such as Chicago and Florida, but Wilson also has started an “INvasion” campaign to better own Indiana and make the game better across the country.

“We almost didn’t do them because guys are going all over the country. So, it felt like a great deal,” Wilson said. “We’re doing five camps in our state for free. We’re not giving them T-shirts. We’re not giving them meals. We’re not giving them anything, but I want to reach back to my state, my coaches, my guys, my state.”

Wilson said he recently held a camp in Fort Wayne, Ind., and will have another four camps today. It’s an all-day affair with linemen and skills camps spaced out at different times and different schools across the Indianapolis metro area.

“I thought it would be a great way. All these guys are talking about helping the game, but they’re flying around in private jets. Their LLC is not playing for the traveling expenses. It’s coming out of the recruiting or discretionary budget,” Wilson said. “Hey, if we want to make the game better, and that’s the gist of why as coaches, I want to make a commitment to my state.”