The Times West Virginian

February 15, 2012

Football ‘Brawl’ dead, for now

Basketball series with Pitt could resume sooner

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — The Backyard Brawl in football is dead and probably will not be revived while the basketball rivalry, which has its 175th renewal in Pittsburgh at 9 p.m. Thursday as two struggling teams square off, could live on.

With the Mountaineers now officially joining the Big 12 on July 1, the football schedule was released and Pitt is nowhere on it. With the Panthers slated to go to the ACC as early as 2013, a conference that plays nine conference games as does the Big 12, it will take some real doing to work it in.

“We have had a tremendous rivalry with Pitt,” WVU athletic director Oliver Luck said as he announced the move to the Big 12 on Tuesday morning. “Pitt is going through a lot of change with their imminent move to the ACC. They play nine games like us, so it would be difficult (for the rivalry to continue).”

That does not mean it is impossible.

“I would welcome conversation with my counterpart, Steve Pedersen,” Luck said. “Certainly, in 2012, it’s obvious there will be no Backyard Brawl. Going forward we need to keep the line of communication open.”

The best chance of the rivalry continuing would be if WVU decides not to play Marshall in the future, a decision that would not take much pushing to arrive at.

WVU wants to continue its Maryland rivalry game and have one “money” game, such as a TV game in Washington, D.C., against James Madison this year. They dropped a game at Florida State to play that to give you an idea of how important this type of game is to the Mountaineers.

The problem is there may be a clamor from the public to renew the rivalry with Pitt, always the highlight of the football season. The two teams’ series goes back to 1895 and Pitt leads it 61-40-3, although WVU has dominated over the past decade.

The basketball situation is easier.

“I want to talk to Jamie when the season is over,” Huggins said, referring to Jamie Dixon, the Pitt coach. “Now obviously is not the time to talk about it.”

There already is talk being generated about creating a small tournament for the local teams, much as the Big Five does in Philadelphia with Villanova, Penn, Temple, St. Joseph’s and Drexel.

This would include WVU, Pitt, Robert Morris and Duquesne.

Huggins did not dismiss the idea out of hand.

“It would depend on the financial package,” he said. “We need to generate money in basketball, as does Pitt.”

Creating such an event doesn’t seem to be much of an imposition on the Mountaineers, who often have played all three teams in the same year. In fact, they have played 86 games with Duquesne and 21 with Robert Morris, to go along with 183 basketball games with Pitt.

Email Bob Hertzel at hertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.