Tailgaters at Pitt-Penn State football game lament likely end to the series
Steady rain did little to dampen the passion of crowds bent on celebrating Saturday’s Pitt-Penn State game in what could be one of the last meetings between the rivals.
“It’s a great rivalry — it’s a shame that next year, after their 100 th game, it could be years before they play again,” said Scott Stickman, a Pitt fan but “not one of those Pitt fans that hates Penn State,” he noted.
Saturday’s meeting was the 99 th for the two teams, though that rivalry was renewed only three years ago following a 15-year break.
The two will meet next year at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, but then the matchup could disappear for decades.
“I think the state Legislature should step in and make them play, and withhold funding if they don’t,” said Stickman, of Mt. Washington.
Outside of Penn State, West Virginia University is probably Pitt’s biggest rival, he said.
Pitt and West Virginia, known affectionately as the Backyard Brawl, have played each other 104 times dating back to 1895. The two last played each other in 2011 and won’t play again until 2022.
For Penn State fans, the next-best rivalry is Ohio State, said recent graduate Meghan Karstetter.
She lived in Pittsburgh for two years while she attended Duquesne before moving home to State College to attend Penn State. She said she used to yell “We are” when she was out in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.
“I love the rivalry,” she said.
Rivalries, once a mainstay of college football, have faded as conferences have changed and non-conference priorities have shifted toward improving a team’s standing rather than crushing the school from the down the road or just across state lines.
Texas and Texas A&M played each other 118 times until 2011, when the Aggies moved from the Big 12 to the SEC. They have not played since.
Similarly, Kansas and Missouri faced off 120 times in the Border War and played annually from 1919 until 2011, when the series ended with Missouri’s move from the Big 12 Conference to the SEC.
The Pitt-Penn State rivalry is headed that way, some say. At the very least, they’re no longer each others’ biggest rivals, lifelong Pitt fan Jeffrey Giles said.
“Not since they’re not in the same conference,” said Giles, of Murrysville. He said Virginia Tech could be considered a rival, and “Georgia Tech always plays us tough.
“It’s different every year because of the two divisions,” he said.
Other schools continue to make cross-conference, interstate rivalries work. South Carolina and Clemson regularly play each other, as do Georgia and Georgia Tech, which have faced off annually since 1925 in a game known as Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
Florida and Florida State play each other despite being in different conferences, and Iowa and Iowa State have kept their rivalry alive for more than 100 years.
Regardless of whether they aligned with “We are” (and “Penn State”) or “Hail to Pitt,” most fans agreed that the loss of the intra-state rivalry is a shame.
Matt Glass grew up outside of Altoona with a Penn State mother and a Pitt father.
“That rivalry was always a big deal,” he said. He said he rooted for Pitt growing up but went to Penn State, which is who he’s thrown his loyalty behind since then. He said he lives in Atlanta now but made the trip north for the game.
As for Penn State’s biggest rival, he agreed with Karstetter: Ohio State.
Jim Fawcett, of Baden, said Pitt season tickets have been part of his family since 1982, and thus, so has the rivalry with Penn State. He said it was frustrating that the teams never played while he attended Pitt.
“Then it was more the West Virginia (rivalry), but I much prefer this one to West Virginia,” he said.
He, too, said it shouldn’t be a choice.
“I actually wish the state government would step in and force us to play or take away the funding,” he said. “Since we can’t get the brainiacs in the middle of the state to bend and give in – because I think they’re afraid – it may take something like that to make them reconsider.”
Staff writer Aaron Aupperlee contributed. Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.