The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

The Backyard Brawl: A vitriolic Appalachian tradition

Pitt+coach+Dave+Wannstedt+expresses+his+frustration+with+a+holding+call+on+Oderick+Turner+that+negated+LeSean+McCoy%E2%80%99s+touchdown+run+during+the+third+quarter+at+the+Backyard+Brawl+on+December+1st%2C+2007.
TPN File Photo
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt expresses his frustration with a holding call on Oderick Turner that negated LeSean McCoy’s touchdown run during the third quarter at the Backyard Brawl on December 1st, 2007.

The Pitt News published this story in collaboration with The Daily Athenaeum, West Virginia University’s student newspaper. To read about Backyard Brawl traditions at WVU visit thedaonline.com. 

After the 11-year hiatus that ended last year with a Pitt victory, the Backyard Brawl and its ensuing vitriol and excitement returns this Saturday at Mountaineer Field. 

From burning couches to displaying effigies of head coaches, the Brawl has a contentious history that dates back to 1895, when Pitt won 8-0. Since then, the game has turned into a battleground of insults and deep-rooted Appalachian rivalry. 

Pitt players have become accustomed to the treatment they receive on the way into Morgantown, West Virginia, which oftentimes includes “getting pelted with beer bottles and rocks.” 

In fact, it’s a tradition that the Panthers have come to relish. In 2007, when Pitt won 13-9 and pulled off the biggest upset in the history of the brawl, getting harassed on the bus only made the players more excited to get on the field. Then-head coach Dave Wannstedt recounted the moment the team realized what was going on. 

“So we’re driving in on the bus, and it’s quiet,” Wannstedt said. “And all of a sudden…Bang! Bang! Bang!…and then the whole bus just comes alive.” 

Fred Cox, former Panther halfback, is forced out of bounds on the West Virginia 38, after racing 22 yards with a pass from Jim Traficant during the famous 1961 Backyard Brawl “Garbage Game.” (TPN File Photo)

Pitt fans have their own traditions, especially the ones who live in “enemy” territory. James Scabilloni, a Pitt class of 1982 alumnae, lived in Morgantown for ten years. On the 10th anniversary of Pitt’s 2007 win, he surprised his West Virginian coworkers with a cake that had the 9-7 score on top. 

In the past, fans of both teams took the rivalry to extremes. Oftentimes, regardless of the outcome of the game, Pitt fans burn couches as a way to mark the occasion. Couch burning has a long history in West Virginia and was initially co-opted by Pitt fans as a way to poke fun at the Mountaineers. Now, though, it’s become a Pittsburgh tradition in its own right. 

A West Virginia student sits awestruck after watching Pat Bostick score from 1 yard out during the third quarter of the Backyard Brawl on December 1st, 2007. (TPN File Photo)

Pat Narduzzi, Pitt’s current football coach, said he enjoys the rivalry because of how it brings the Pitt community together. 

“I want to embrace it for our kids, because it’s important to us,” Narduzzi said. “And if it’s important to our fans in the Panther nation, it’s important to me. That’s what we do, is go fight for each other, and so that’s what it’s all about.” 

Liz Scabilloni, a junior communication sciences disorders major and James Scabilloni’s niece, is one of the many students traveling to Morgantown on Saturday to cheer for the Panthers. She said she’s preparing to be met with the traditional behavior that has become expected of the Brawl. 

“When my dad and uncle went to games in Morgantown, a few different times they had things thrown at them in the stands,” Scabilloni said. “But I’m not scared of it because that’s, you know, the nature of the Brawl. It’s part of what makes it so exciting and such an event to be at.”

About the Contributor
Ryleigh Lord, News Editor
Ryleigh Lord is the head news editor at The Pitt News. She is a junior history and English writing major with an Irish minor. She also contributes to the culture desk, mostly to talk about the shows and movies she loves. In her free time, she's usually cheering on Arsenal WFC despite their best efforts to break her spirit. You can contact her at [email protected]