WVU Football: Will the Backyard Brawl Ever Return?


December 1, 2012; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers marching band performs before the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at Milan Puskar Stadium. The West Virginia Mountaineers won 59-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of fierce college football rivalries, you always think of the West Virginia vs Pitt rivalry, affectionately referred to as the “Backyard Brawl.” The series matching two of the Appalachian region’s greatest teams annually, was played annually every year between 1943 and 2011. The two schools matched up 104 times with the Pitt Panthers holding a 61-40-3 lead in the series.

Both Pitt and West Virginia also enjoyed a healthy hatred and rivalry with the other Appalachian powerhouse, Penn State. And as current Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson has made clear this week at the ACC meetings, the restoration of the rivalry with Penn State takes priority over the Backyard Brawl.

"“I would sign a 30-year deal, if I could,” Pederson said. “It shouldn’t matter who the (university) president or the head coach is, these institutions should always play. It’s a great game. It’s got history to it, we’re three hours apart and in the same state. Those games ought to be played.” – Pederson on Pitt vs Penn State scheduling."

To Pedersen, it is more important to restore a rivalry with the team that they have not played since 2000 and not played annually since 1992. The rival that is three hours away. The rival that is down and out for the next decade thanks to NCAA sanctions.

It makes perfect sense to add Penn State to the schedule rather than renew your annual rivalry with the team 75 miles to the South. The team that is clearly the fiercest rival in your program’s history.

To be fair to Pedersen, it sounds like both schools are having a tough time finding room for the Backyard Brawl:

"“We’re both trying to figure out when we can do it,” Pederson said. “We’re both in favor if it’s in the best interest of both schools.”"

For the Mountaineers, it is a tough sell to get the Panthers back on the schedule with 9 Big XII conference games. Like so many top tier college football programs, the Mountaineers favor 7 home games a season, allowing for an infusion of ticket sales proceeds into their athletic budget.

Right now, the Mountaineers have an on-going series with the Maryland Terrapins annually. WVU also usually rents a FCS-level victim such as William & Mary.

For West Virginia to reignite a rivalry with Pitt would at the very least require that the series allow for home games for the Mountaineers in the years they had to travel to Maryland. More likely, Oliver Luck would not sign up for the Backyard Brawl as long as the Mountaineers are involved in a 9-game Big XII schedule and a long-term contract with the Maryland Terrapins.

While the rivalry with Maryland is a good one, it is not the same as the Backyard Brawl. It is more like the Pitt vs Penn State rivalry: solid, but not the #1 rivalry.