Penn State Football

Penn State Football: Sandy Barbour gives final word on rivalry hopes, updates Pitt/Penn State odds

Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour talks with reporters during Big Ten Media Days in Chicago.
Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour talks with reporters during Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. CDT photo

It’s no secret that Rutgers fans and Penn State fans do not get along.

Fresh on the heels of Maryland head football coach Randy Edsall’s expression of hope Thursday that the Terrapins and Penn State could begin a rivalry, Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood took the podium at the Big Ten Media Days to echo similar sentiments Friday.

Penn State edged Rutgers in the Scarlet Knights’ Big Ten debut last season, amid controversy over some of the latter team’s fans making crude jokes at the expense of Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Flood spoke of this season’s rematch.

“We’re looking forward to it,” he said. “I know it will be a great environment out there. They’ve got a very exciting fan base.”

Does Flood consider it to be a rivalry, though? He was a little more political in his answer than Edsall – after all, Rutgers is 2-23 against Penn State all-time.

“Rivalries could come down to three things,” Flood said. “Geography, certainly the geography is there. Recruiting. Do you have players in both programs that were recruited by both schools? We do. Certainly, (that’s) the case.

“And then competitive football games which we had last year. So is it the start of something like that? It might be. But I think those things have to happen organically. I don’t think you can create them.”

The rematch will likely be heated. But is it a rivalry?

It’s the third time in as many weeks that opposing coaches have spoken up about playing Penn State – whether as hopeful rivals or just in general.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi, fresh out of the Big Ten himself, has expressed interest in extending the heated series past its four-game slate (2016-19), most recently last week at ACC Media Days.

“Being from Pennsylvania, that’s a big game,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any bigger rivalry, you can talk about Syracuse, until I’ve been in that Penn State rivalry, a win or a loss fuels that rivalry. In the state of Pennsylvania, the Pitt/Penn State football game is where it starts. I think in the state of Pennsylvania, if they could play that game 12 weeks out of the year, they would vote yes to do that. It’s an in-state rivalry. You know that’s a rivalry. I’m all for keeping that thing going. I know Scott Barnes, our athletic director, is working on that.”

Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour confirmed that she and Barnes would speak.

“We’re having a conversation here in the next month or so about their interest and our interest,” she said on Friday. “We’ll see where it goes.

“I’m interested in creating this balance in our schedule, and putting in the puzzle pieces. We’ll see where Pitt fits in that.”

Barbour said, however, that Penn State doesn’t need a “true” rival.

“No,” she said, grinning a little. “I mean, we’re Penn State. And ... I love college football, I love talking about rivalries, but what happens on Saturday afternoon with 107,000 people in a stadium is what our fan base, what our community, what our alumni and our university get fired up about.

“And I’ve seen over the course of one year that it really doesn’t matter (who we play), it’s about us. It’s about our connections to each other, it’s about our drive for excellence.”

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