Pitt AD wants to keep playing PSU 'in perpetuity'
The Pitt-Penn State game may never again return to the glorious yearly event it was for most of the last century.
But Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes offered some hope on Wednesday to renew the series again around 2025, after the current four-year commitment ends.
Talks are on hold until Pitt determines what direction the ACC is going in, regarding a possible expansion to nine conference games from eight. A vote is expected later this fall.
“We have had conversations, but no new conversations. We would love to play this in perpetuity,” Barnes said in a roundtable with media Wednesday morning. “We need to let the dust settle on (ACC plans). How that affects rivalries. It would not necessarily affect playing Penn State from our perspective, it just gives us an opportunity to see what the future looks like before we make any further moves.”
Barnes said there have been initial talks about saving some dates “in the mid-2020s” for a return of the Pitt-Penn State game, but until ACC scheduling is resolved, talks must wait.
Barnes was non-committal to what direction he is leaning to vote, pointing out that there are merits to both ways.
He did say that as he and his staff research the available opponents in the next 10 years, the outlook is bleak.
“I don’t like the looks of … I’m not confident in the number of available games over the next 10 years. I want to look at that a little harder to fill our schedule the way we need to,” said Barnes. “I think there’s fewer games than I’d hoped (there would be) to put a schedule together that would meet our needs. We’ve got to take that into consideration when we look at eight or nine.”
A request to speak with Sandy Barbour, Penn State’s athletic director, was denied. She told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a statement: “I have strong appreciation for the history and tradition of the Penn State-Pitt series. We need to determine where any future games would fit with our other scheduling requirements and objectives.”
As for this coming Saturday, Barnes said that the ticket count was inching to 70,000 out, which would set an attendance record in Pittsburgh for a sporting event.
“Conference realignment has sort of gutted a lot of the regional rivalries over time. To have one back of the magnitude that this is, is special,” said Barnes. “I think we’ve seen that (in) the response from our fans, the region, and certainly at a national level.”
Barnes said he has not monitored the secondary ticket market, but is well aware it is among the hottest tickets in the country this weekend. On Stub Hub, tickets were priced from $150, for standing-room only ticket, to $1,500 for a club seat as of Wednesday afternoon.
Barnes said expanded tailgate activities will begin at 9 a.m., including the ACC Tailgate Tour, hosted by former quarterback Rod Rutherford.
The highlight of the day, aside from the main event, is a ceremony after the first quarter to celebrate Pitt’s 1976 National Championship Team. Some 80 members of the team, including Tony Dorsett and coach Johnny Majors, are expected to be among those attending.
In the overall scope of things, it will be a big day in the national spotlight for Pitt, said Barnes, who stopped short of calling it a must-win game.
“There’s a lot of emotion around rivalries. It doesn’t count as an ACC win. It’s not a top-20 game, but I think it’s an important next step after a 16-year hiatus to create another step in our momentum,” said Barnes. “It will be fun. It will be a nice next step for our program. It’s not a must-have but it is certainly another opportunity to step forward.”