Pitt, Penn State to renew football rivalry in 2016

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After more than a decade of wishful thinking by fans and alumni of both schools, Pitt and Penn State announced today that they will resume their historic football rivalry with an agreement to play two games in 2016 and 2017.

The Panthers will play host to the Lions on Sept. 10, 2016 and the game at Penn State will be played on Sept. 16, 2017.

Penn State holds a 50-42-4 advantage in the all-time series that began in 1893. The schools played every season from 1900-31 and 1935-92. Following a four-year break, the series resumed for four games from 1997-2000 before its current hiatus. The rivalry gained national stature during the 1970s and '80s when the teams regularly met with both eastern supremacy and national title implications at stake.

Pitt and Penn State last played on September 16, 2000, when the Panthers beat the Lions, 12-0, at Three Rivers Stadium.

"It's exciting for college football fans -- the renewal of one of the most historic and exciting rivalries of all-time returns," Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said during an afternoon press conference to officially announce the series' resumption.

"Now we're talking about a whole new generation of fans who are going to get a chance to experience this game. It's a game that has tremendous passion among fans on both sides. Some of the greatest players in the history of the game have played in this game. It's a great day not only for the University of Pittsburgh and for Penn State, but for also all of college football fans."

According to Pederson, Penn State approached Pitt last week after an opening in future schedules emerged.

"Penn State had an opportunity that came free ... and I appreciate the fact they were willing to approach us to discuss that opening." Pederson said.

"Tim [Curley] and I were pretty quickly able to put all of this together, we really started the end of last week pulling all this together. We felt like as soon as we reached an agreement on all of this that we'd be able to move forward."

Although he has yet to actually coach a game for the Panthers, new Pitt head coach Todd Graham is fully aware of the signifgance of these games.

"I'm really excited. The opportunity to renew one of the nation's richest rivalries is exciting to me. Our players want to play in these types of games. I don't think anywhere I've been when I've talked to alumni and lettermen and fans that they haven't mentioned that this is our greatest rival and the importance of this game," Graham said.

"As you talk to our former players, they talk about this game as the rivalry for Pitt. I remember some very physical, hard-fought games. Growing up in Dallas I watched those games, so that tells you how far out that type of rivalry game reaches. I'm big into the history of the game and I think these things are important, and it's important to play them."

Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1230. Staff writer Craig Meyer contributed to this report.


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