The Penn State-Pitt rivalry in a vacuum is attractive to Nittany Lions coach James Franklin. The problem is, it's not in a vacuum.
"It's been fantastic. It's been awesome for the state of Pennsylvania. We're keeping a game that has some historical value. All those things are wonderful," Franklin said Wednesday at Penn State's second Coaches Caravan stop. "But when you're talking about Penn State doing what's best for Penn State based on the nine-game model and the previous model that didn't allow us to play I-AA teams at home, I don't know if makes a whole lot of sense."
Pittsburgh is looking to renew its series with Penn State. That's no secret. Panthers athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters that she submitted a four-year contract extension to Penn State. Meanwhile, Nittany Lions AD Sandy Barbour said on the Coaches Caravan that a renewal wouldn't be revisited until 2030 or later.
In the short term, Penn State has its non-conference Power 5 slate mapped out. The Nittany Lions have home-and-home series with Auburn, Virginia Tech and West Virginia scheduled from 2020 through 2025.
But after that, nothing is set. So why not add Pitt to the docket in 2026?
Barbour wants Penn State to have the "flexibility" to schedule "attractive alternatives."
Franklin said he's looking to "put Penn State in the best position to win conference championships and have a chance to get in the playoff, and if Pitt equals into that equation, then wonderful."
"Strength of schedule is a huge part, or was supposed to be a huge part, of the selection committee. But it really hasn't panned out. You wouldn't say that after looking at the last couple of years," Franklin said. "Especially when you play in the Big Ten East, give yourself the best chance to win your conference championship and be undefeated. All the other variables, they are going to change year to year because there are going to be different people to come off the committee and people come on the committee, and they're all going to have their own personal biases.
"For me, if Pitt makes sense and helps us with that, then wonderful."
Keeping coaches in State College
Josh Gattis — Penn State's former wide receiver coach — left Happy Valley for the same position at Alabama in January.
Franklin doesn't want to see that become a trend.
"We've lost a number of assistants for lateral moves," the head coach said. "That can't happen."
If assistants leave for promotions, that's a different story. Franklin said it was "awesome" when former Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead left to become the leader at Mississippi State.
But running backs coach Charles Huff followed Moorhead for the same position in Starkville. Former defensive coordinator Bob Shoop left for Tennessee in January 2016. And then there's Gattis, who is also Alabama's co-offensive coordinator but will not call plays.
"If they're leaving to become coordinators, if they're leaving to become head coaches, wonderful," Franklin added. "But at a top-10 program that we are now, we shouldn't be losing coaches for lateral moves."
"When the time is right, that will be a very, very large project. It will require a lot of runway in terms of planning and putting together the financial model around it. That's something that's always operating in the background, but that's not something we're focusing on right now." — Barbour, on there being no timetable for Beaver Stadium renovations