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Pitt

4-1-Zoo: Backyard Brawl A Thing Of The Past

By: Chris Gates
2007 Backyard Brawl

Former Pitt tailback LeSean McCoy runs against WVU in the 2007 Backyard Brawl. (File photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — With yesterday’s official confirmation that West Virginia will leave the Big East for the Big XII next season, it’s clear that the future of the Backyard Brawl is bleak at best.

Pitt and WVU tip off Thursday night at the Petersen Events Center for the final time as Big East foes. It could be the final time ever.

Now, chances are the basketball version of the Backyard Brawl can continue in the future. Basketball non-conference schedules are much longer than football and allow for more regional rivalries to take place.

For instance, look at the yearly matchups between Pitt, Robert Morris and Duquesne. All are in different conferences, yet all play each other every season. After transitional periods by both the Panthers and Mountaineers, it’s realistic for both schools to be able to play once a year in basketball.

Football, however, is a completely different story.

Whenever Pitt joins the Atlantic Coast Conference it will play a nine-game conference schedule. That allows for three non-conference games, at least one of which will be of the “cupcake” variety.

With two non-conference games available, then, it’s unrealistic to think the Backyard Brawl can continue from Pitt’s perspective. It’s clear the football program values the Notre Dame rivalry more than any other on its current schedule — even more than the heated games against WVU.

With playing Notre Dame every season comes more national exposure and frequent appearances on NBC, Notre Dame’s network for all home games. As we know by now in conference expansion, it’s all about money. Notre Dame brings in more money for Pitt.

It’s also likely to expect Pitt to seriously pursue scheduling Penn State on a regular basis once again. If this were to work out it would be more valuable than playing WVU as well, for many of the same reasons Notre Dame is a more worthwhile opponent to schedule.

With quite an overhaul at Penn State, it would be smart for Pitt to do everything in its power to schedule the Nittany Lions on a regular basis, which starts with back to back games already planned for 2015-16.

Something else that Pitt has to realistically consider is whether it wants to play more than one marquee rivalry game in the non-conference schedule every year. With a competitive conference slate every season, Pitt needs to get wins in the non-conference portion of its schedule to hopefully position itself for a BCS appearance come season’s end.

With all these factors playing into the equation on the football side of things, it’s unrealistic to believe Pitt and West Virginia will continue the Backyard Brawl. And when you hear athletic director Steve Pederson answer questions regarding continuing the rivalry, it’s clear it’s not at the top of his to-do list.

“Yesterday, the Big East communicated to us it had reached a settlement with West Virginia and would work to find us a replacement team for that home game,” Pederson said in a statement. “We will keep our fans informed as that develops.

“Given the conference transitions both schools are currently undergoing, it is difficult to speculate on the future of our series with WVU. Our more immediate focus is on finalizing our upcoming football schedule.”

So here’s to the memories. Thursday night will be the end of this rivalry and its meaning for a long, long time.

Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog
Twitter.com/Chris_Gates
Chris.Gates@cbsradio.com

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