PITTSBURGH – Pitt (1-1, 0-1) and Penn State (2-0) are preparing to face one another for the 100th time Saturday at noon at Beaver Stadium. It also marks the final matchup between the two schools for the foreseeable future, as Saturday’s game is the last one scheduled of the current series which began in 2016.
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi was asked at his Monday press conference if he thinks the Pitt-Penn State game should be played every year.
“Of course I do, but it doesn't matter what I think,” Narduzzi replied.
“I think everybody in the state of Pennsylvania that's not sitting in a football office somewhere in this state would say, ‘Hey, why don’t we play this game?’”
Pitt Athletic Director Heather Lyke said last year that Pitt had approached Penn State about renewing the series in 2026, going as far as sending a formal agreement to State College, but the agreement was never signed. Due to the scheduling requirements of their respective conferences, the Panthers and Nittany Lions will not face one another for at least a decade, and possibly much longer.
Narduzzi reiterated what he said last year about the game.
“It's a big game. It's another game for us, but it's a big game because it's a rivalry game, in state,” Narduzzi said. “I'm going to emphasize to our kids, you might be the last team to ever get to play this game. It might be. I don't know if it'll be played.
“I'm either going to be in a coffin or retired probably, so I don't know which one it'll be,” Narduzzi joked.
Though Pitt may be losing a traditional rivalry game as the Penn State series goes by the wayside, the Panthers will renew the “Backyard Brawl” with West Virginia for four years beginning in 2022. Narduzzi also mentioned Syracuse – which left the Big East for the ACC the same year Pitt did – as another school he thinks of as a rival.
“West Virginia is coming back, as you know. And then Syracuse is our rival,” Narduzzi said. “I mean, that's an old Big East rival, as we know. It's been a terrific game every year.”
What has set the current Pitt and Penn State series apart from other rivalries is the seemingly contentious relationship between Narduzzi and Penn State coach James Franklin. Narduzzi balked at that characterization of the relationship between the two coaches.
“We vacation together,” Narduzzi said, a response that was quickly followed by laughter from the assembled media.
“We do!” Narduzzi insisted. “James is a great guy. We go on the Nike trip every year, and I would call that a vacation, so we do vacation and socialize.”
Narduzzi implied that the only bad blood that exists between the two is on the field, and cited his relationship and recent interaction with Ohio coach Frank Solich as an example of both the competitiveness and sportsmanship that exists among college coaches.
“Frank Solich is a hell of a guy, OK, excuse my language. But he's a great guy. We shake hands, we talk for a few minutes before the game and then the fight is on. After the game I'm saying, you guys got a great football team, give him a hug, and you like the guy.
“(That’s) what college sports is. There's the competition part of it and there's the sportsman part of it. I feel like the University of Pittsburgh, our program is going to be a classy program and we're going to play with class and act classy. That's who we are.”