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Thursday June 21 2018
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Brawling Again

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The Backyard Brawl is back, even if it’s not for another seven years. When the West Virginia Mountaineers take the field in Pittsburgh in the fall of 2022, the players that will be freshmen on those teams are mere sixth-graders now.

Many probably haven’t even started to play organized football yet. Nevertheless, it’s a good thing that the rivalry will continue, at least for four season from 2022-2025.

The new athletic directors at both schools deserve plenty of credit for making it happen.

Shane Lyons, hired at West Virginia in January, is—like his predecessor, Oliver Luck—a graduate of WVU. Unlike Luck, however, Lyons was able to make the Backyard Brawl happen once again.

Scott Barnes, hired at Pitt in late April, was also able to do what his predecessor, Steve Pederson, was not.

Pederson spent two stints at Pitt totaling 13 years. He knows all about the Backyard Brawl. In fact, Pederson was welcomed back to his second stint at Pitt with one of the biggest moments in the history of the Pitt-West Virginia rivalry, the Panthers 13-9 win in Morgantown in 2007 that knocked the Mountaineers out of the national championship game.

Luck knows the Brawl far better than Pederson. Luck played in these games when he was a quarterback at WVU in the 1980’s. He served on the university’s Board of Governors and spent four years as the AD.

Yet Pederson and Luck constantly found reasons not to schedule one another in football.

It took Barnes and Lyons about four months to get these game scheduled.

Both administrators summed up the process as overwhelmingly simple. They made a couple of phone calls, dotted some I's, cross a few T's and the Mountaineers and Panthers are playing one another again.

Sure, it is not for another seven years, and it’s only for four years, but it certainly makes more sense than forcing fans to buy into a Pitt-Youngstown State rivalry, or asking the WVU faithful to listen to Dana Holgorsen talk about how dangerous Georgia State is.

The rivalry is scheduled far enough in advance that it’s certainly possible to tack more games onto the existing four. And while Pitt claims their priority is to get more games with Penn State back on the schedule, there should be room for both opponents more often than not. WVU, after all, will play both Pitt and Penn State in 2023.

Times have certainly changed in college football. Conference realignment has affected rivalries across the county and wreaked havoc on athletic schedules in every sport.

It’s less than 400 miles to drive from Morgantown to Pittsburgh to State College to Philadelphia. Yet West Virginia, Pitt, Penn State and Temple—teams that used to appear on one another’s schedules every season—are in four separate conferences.

While all this has obviously impacted scheduling, it’s still possible to get these games done. Hats off to Lyons and Barnes for picking up the phone and making it happen.

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