Editorial: Discontinue the Backyard Brawl

Staff Editorial | November 27, 2011    

Needless to say, last Friday’s Backyard Brawl was hardly the proudest moment in Pitt football… Needless to say, last Friday’s Backyard Brawl was hardly the proudest moment in Pitt football history. But despite our desire to redeem ourselves, we’re relieved to hear that the Brawl might be discontinued.

This has been a pivotal year for both Pitt and West Virginia University athletics. After a yet-to-be determined period, the former will decamp to the ACC, while the latter will join the Big 12 next summer. These joint departures have led many to predict that this year’s Backyard Brawl — the 104th — will be the last.

Some would call this a shame, citing the game’s long and illustrious history. We, however, would be more than happy to bid it farewell — not because we don’t enjoy it, but because our relationship with WVU has become profoundly unhealthy.

We’ll be the first to acknowledge that Pitt fans sometimes conduct themselves tastelessly. They’ve been known to insult players and profane property. Once, a Pitt student even threw a can at an Ohio State fan — during, of all things, a party at Penn State.

But our misdeeds pale in comparison to those of supporters of WVU. Before 2007’s legendary 13-9 upset, according to ex-Pitt linebacker Scott McKillop, Mountaineers fans hurled beer cans at our football team’s bus. “I (expletive) hate West Virginia,” he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

More recently, during a 2010 basketball game, WVU fans tossed plastic bottles and other objects onto the court. Even after WVU head coach Bob Huggins implored them to stop, a quarter hit Pitt assistant coach Tom Herrion in the eye.

For the record, WVU fans are hardly more contained when facing other teams. Last year, during a basketball game against Ohio State, they attracted nationwide criticism for chanting expletives audible even on television. And just a week later, they jeered Louisville coach Rick Pitino about a woman he’d admitted to having affair with.

Some would protest that no storied college rivalries are truly “healthy,” that unseemly incidents abound whenever two large, regional schools confront one another. We beg to differ: Michigan and Michigan State fans might dislike one another, but they haven’t been known to employ WVU fans’ tactics. The same applies to Notre Dame fans, who rarely behave inappropriately when their team plays ours.

In any case, many ACC teams — Virginia Tech, for instance — could easily replace WVU as our main rival. Even Penn State — whom we’ll play in 2016 and 2017 — could fulfill that role, depending on how successful the upcoming games are.

Simply put, we don’t need the Backyard Brawl. We’ve achieved some inspiring victories during the tradition’s history — and certainly, as this year affirms, suffered some embarrassing losses — but we can recognize when the term “Brawl” is becoming too literal.

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