Series extends through 2019: Pitt, PSU agree to two more games

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It took Pitt and Penn State 11 years to reach an agreement to renew their football rivalry, but just more than 18 months to extend it.

The two schools announced an agreement Friday that extended the series -- set to resume in 2016 -- by another two games.

Penn State will play at Pitt Sept. 18, 2018, and the teams will meet in University Park, Pa., Sept. 14, 2019. The two schools announced a deal last summer for a home-and-home series in 2016 (at Pitt) and 2017 (at Penn State).

"It's great for our state," Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said on a conference call with reporters. "Certainly it's great for the city of Pittsburgh. I think it's great for college football. The rivalries are getting to be fewer and fewer, and this is one of the great historic rivalries in college football."

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien, who has been publicly in favor of renewing the Pitt-Penn State series since he took the job in January, agreed with Pederson.

"We are thrilled to have the University of Pittsburgh back on the schedule for several consecutive years," O'Brien said in a statement. "Regional rivalries in college football are special. I have been involved in a few as a coach. Penn State versus Pitt is a rivalry rich with history and tradition."

The two teams have played 96 times throughout their history, including every year from 1900-31 and 1935-92. They had a four-game series from 1997-2000, but have not played since Pitt's 12-0 win at Three Rivers Stadium in 2000.

Penn State leads the all-time series, 50-42-4, but two of the Nittany Lions' wins (1998 and 1999) were vacated in accordance with NCAA sanctions earlier this year.

Pederson said he was optimistic the most recent extension would be a sign of things to come, and that the series could be extended even further down the line.

"Right now we're really fixated on getting these games, '16 through '19. As I've said before, hopefully that leads us to future games as well," Pederson said. "We'd like to be able to do that and certainly Penn State's given us the indication that they like playing this game as well."

Both schools have massive alumni bases in Western Pennsylvania, and consistently compete for the same elite in-state recruits. Pederson has long made it clear that re-establishing the series was his top scheduling priority.

When the ACC announced in October that it would stick with eight conference games instead of nine, it freed up space on Pitt's non-conference schedule. The Big Ten announced in July that it also would stay with eight conference games.

"Once we got that settled, this actually moved fairly quickly," Pederson said.

The original two-year contract between the schools was negotiated by former athletic director Tim Curley, who resigned in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. Acting athletic director David Joyner said he was excited to extend the series even further.

"The Penn State-Pitt game was a premier rivalry that was anticipated by college football fans across Pennsylvania and the nation," Joyner said in a statement. "There are more than 50,000 Penn State alumni and fans in Western Pennsylvania and we look forward to playing in their backyard."

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Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG. Mark Dent: mdent@post-gazette.com and Twitter @mdent05.


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