Since leaving for the Big 12 Conference in 2012, the revival of the Backyard Brawl has been one of the most burning questions asked by West Virginia football fans every year since the wave of realignment hit college athletics.
West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, who likely receives the question on a daily basis, spoke with Jake Trotter of ESPN’s Big 12 Blog about how the Mountaineers and other Big 12 teams look to schedule past rivals, like the scheduled series between Oklahoma-Nebraska and the potential matchup between Texas Tech and Texas A&M.
“What I’m trying to do with our nonconference games is stay as regional as possible and rekindle some of our historical rivalries,” said Luck. “Penn State is back on the schedule. Virginia Tech is back on the schedule. That game meant a lot to southern West Virginians. The Pitt game meant a lot to northern West Virginians. We’ve continued to play Pitt in many of the sports.”
Last year, Luck announced the agreement of those two home-and-home series, with Virginia Tech beginning in Morgantown in 2021 and Penn State in University Park in 2023. And for Pittsburgh, he certainly knows the importance of adding the team in the future for West Virginia fans, playing in three Backyard Brawls himself during his career in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“We’ve both gone through transitions, so it’s tough schedule-wise for both of us, but I think at some point we’ll get Pitt back on the schedule,” said Luck on West Virginia’s move to the Big 12 and Pitt’s move to the ACC. “I see [Pitt athletic director] Steve Pederson every now and then at various conventions. And we’ve had some discussions about that. We just haven’t been able to really eyeball the proper time to get it going again.”
Pederson told Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in May the two athletic directors haven’t had any substantive conversations about a future scheduling agreement.
Looking ahead, it will be tough task to find a place on either team’s schedule for the Backyard Brawl’s next edition, but a strong possibility can found in future years. Pittsburgh and West Virginia both have openings during the 2018 and 2019 seasons to possibly schedule a home-and-home series similar to the agreements for Virginia Tech and Penn State.
With the ACC instituting new scheduling rules for 2017, West Virginia would give Pittsburgh a team from one of the Power Five conferences to play in 2018-2019, while Luck would score the trifecta of scheduling the key regional rivals from both Pennsylvania and Virginia. Not to mention, the ticket sales would spike for fans wanting to be there to see if West Virginia can win their fourth straight game over Pittsburgh.
The tradition and atmosphere that comes with every Backyard Brawl should make the urgency to revive the rivalry sooner rather than later for those in charge in Morgantown and Pittsburgh.