Pitt should stay away from WVU in non-conference

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Pitt should stay away from WVU in non-conference

By Ryan Bertonaschi / Senior Staff Writer

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Last Tuesday, the University of Notre Dame announced its football games against ACC opponents through the next decade. The Fighting Irish will now play Pitt in the century-old rivalry just five times over the next 11 years, even though they appeared on Pitt’s schedule all but three times the last 19 seasons.

The matchup was just getting good, too. Nine of the past 10 Pitt-Notre Dame games were decided by single digits.

Now head coach Paul Chryst, athletic director Steve Pederson, director of football operations Chris LaSala and Chancellor Patrick D. Gallagher will replace the holes that Notre Dame and the ACC left in Pitt’s future non-conference schedules.

Many Pitt fans in the past week have speculated that this void calls for Pitt’s higher-ups to renew the Backyard Brawl with West Virginia.

I can’t think of a worse idea. Pitt and WVU games have ended badly for fans in the past, and Pitt does not want to stoop to that level again.

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen addressed the matter in July at the Big 12 media day, telling reporters he would “welcome back Pitt and the Backyard Brawl any time that they want it.”

Holgorsen added that WVU athletic director Oliver Luck is in favor of renewing the game, while admitting that the process of scheduling the Brawl is “tricky.” The ball appeared to be in Pitt’s court at the time, and it most definitely is in Pitt’s court now.

My advice to Pederson and Gallagher: cut ties with the Brawl completely.

You might be thinking, “Why? The Mountaineers knocked off No. 4 Baylor!”

It’s because of what the citizens of Morgantown did after the game.

Not only were many couches and living room chairs reportedly torched around campus after the Mountaineers’ upset win, but students flocked to the streets where they reportedly caused thousands of dollars in damage to street lights, and they terrorized construction sites. They then made headlines for overturning a dumpster and throwing handheld items at police and firefighters, forcing police to respond by shooting tear gas.

Police declared the situation a “riot.”

This sounds strikingly similar to when, in 2007, Pitt’s team bus was pelted with bricks and rocks while driving through Morgantown before knocking off the then-No. 2 Mountaineers (13-9).

It’s also a spitting image of the 2010 basketball brawl at the WVU Coliseum. West Virginia was given a technical foul because a fan hit former Pitt assistant coach Tom Herrion in the face with a penny during a timeout.

It caused Fox Sports Network color commentator Mark Adams to erupt into an on-air rant.

“This is the second time now tonight here in West Virginia where somebody’s thrown something on the court, and that time it hits the assistant coach,” Adams said. “That is simply not acceptable in college basketball or anyplace else.”

“You should be able to come to a place to play basketball and not be fearful of your personal safety,” he added.

The following year, an LSU fan who was a Pittsburgh native was attacked while trying to leave a parking lot near the football stadium following the Mountaineers’ loss to LSU.

A WVU fan threw a rock through the LSU fan’s car windshield, and, after an ensuing altercation, the victim was taken to the hospital with facial injuries.

This was the game that some WVU fans wore shirts that contained an outline of Louisiana with the words “Relying on FEMA Since 2005.”

West Virginia and its fan base don’t deserve a game with Pitt. The Backyard Brawl was an unhealthy rivalry to begin with. Pitt fans may have chanted “Start the tractor” at the end of a blowout Panther victory, but Mountaineer fans were always quick to respond with a certain profane mockery of the “Let’s go Pitt” chant.

Pitt fans weren’t necessarily angels during those games, either, but they did not chant or act their way onto SportsCenter segments that condemned the student body for its vile behavior at games.

If Gallagher wants to build on the legacy that previous Chancellor Mark Nordenberg built, he has the power to hold his world-class research institution to a standard that says “no thanks” to West Virginia and schools on its level.

Pitt can just try beating Akron, instead.

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