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Pitt, PSU presidents ask fans to behave on Saturday

MARK WOGENRICH
(Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)
  • Pitt and Penn State will meet on Saturday in Pittsburgh.
  • It will be the first meeting between former arch-rivals since 2000.
  • The presidents of both universities are asking their fans to be "respectful."

The leaders of Penn State and Pitt are asking fans to behave themselves at Saturday's renewal of their schools' football rivalry.

Penn State president Eric Barron has found himself embroiled in controversy.

Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and Penn State President Eric Barron penned a joint letter in which they asked fans to be "loud, be respectful and be a good sport" for the game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

"Let’s showcase the best versions of ourselves to help support our respective teams," they wrote. "We look to everyone to make wise choices and enjoy the game responsibly."

Penn State and Pitt, playing for the first time since 2000, begin a four-game series Saturday. Officials from Pitt publicly have sought to renew the game beyond 2019. Penn State has been non-committal.

On Wednesday, Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes said that 70,000 tickets have been made available for the game, which could set a sporting-event attendance record in Pittsburgh.

Penn State coach James Franklin said he expects a "colorful" welcome to Pittsburgh.

"There's probably going to be a lot of things screamed at our buses when we drive in," Franklin told reporters in State College on Wednesday. "There's probably going to be a lot of things screamed from the stands, colorful things like 'welcome to Pittsburgh,' things like that. But I want our guys focused on the things they can control, and we're going to have some support there as well."

Gallagher and Barron might be stretching the hype by writing that "the stakes are higher than ever," considering that the teams used to play regular-season finales, often on Thanksgiving. But they note that such interest has extended throughout Pennsylvania.

"A vibrant energy surrounds this matchup, and fans have shown a tremendous anticipation for its resurrection," they wrote. "We are excited to share this moment with you. We are proud to say we have two of the most passionate and dedicated fan bases in this country, and we hope this game produces positive memories for the thousands of students, alumni and friends who attend."