The rivalry between Penn State and Pittsburgh is scheduled to continue through 2019 — and Nittany Lions athletic director Sandy Barbour said talks of a renewal will happen in the near future.
Barbour said Wednesday afternoon that she knows Pitt’s new athletic director, Heather Lyke, well, and even though the series won’t come back until after 2025 due to the Nittany Lions’ future schedule, they’ll discuss an extension.
“Heather and I have not had that conversation,” Barbour said at the Omni William Penn Hotel on the fifth stop of Penn State’s Coaches Caravan. “I’ve said the congratulations, welcome to the state of Pennsylvania. But we both know we’ll get to that conversation fairly soon.”
Penn State’s non-conference Power Five slot is filled with Pitt through 2019, Virginia Tech in 2020 and 2025, Auburn in 2021 and 2022, and and West Virginia in 2023 and 2024.
And don’t expect that first discussion between Barbour and Lyke to be about playing in 2026, either. Instead, Barbour expects it to center around fan cooperation.
“I wish our fanbases could treat each other with a little bit more respect,” Barbour said when asked about last year’s game at Heinz Field, a 42-39 Penn State loss. “I know that’s something (former Pitt AD) Scott (Barnes) and I were working on, and that Heather and I will work on together, as well.”
Barbour is realistic, saying she understands Pitt fans won’t listen to Penn State’s athletic director, and vice versa. But she does hope both ADs can be on the same page about what’s important in the series.
“I do think we can message and create expectations for our fanbases about the game ought to be about,” Barbour said. “The game ought to be about the student-athletes on the field.”
Of course, Penn State hosts Pitt on Sept. 9, its second game of the season after opening against Akron a week earlier. Last month, during Penn State’s promotional releases, it was announced that the 2016 Big Ten Championship team would be honored prior to the Nittany Lions’ game against the Panthers.
That could — intentionally or unintentionally — douse more fuel on the fire of the rivalry. Both fanbases took to social media to voice their opinions when the ceremony was announced.
However, Penn State head coach James Franklin said he had no input in the marketing strategy behind honoring the 2016 conference champs before the Pitt game, as opposed to the season opener.
“We’re not involved in those decisions,” Franklin said of he and the staff. “I’m not really concerned with that kind of stuff.”
Franklin also said his team’s three-point loss to Pitt doesn’t change his outlook on the billed rivalry.
“I think when you’re in the same state, there’s a lot of talking involved, stuff on social media, and things like that. From a historical standpoint, I get it,” Franklin said. “But I wouldn’t say a whole lot has changed from before the game to now.”