NEWPORT, R.I. -- The slow burn that makes the Backyard Brawl the rivalry that it is has been stoked again.
New coaches Todd Graham of Pitt and Dana Holgorsen of West Virginia have a history of coaching against each other (dating from their Conference USA days) and a relationship best described as chilly. But players for both schools seem a lot less shy about sharing their thoughts about each other, which was evident Tuesday at Big East Conference football media day, generally a cordial event where players from each team spend time getting to know each other at a clambake.
West Virginia's loquacious defensive end, Bruce Irvin, made it clear, however, there would be no getting to know Pitt players this year. A few hours before the clambake, he posted a message on his Twitter, a message which read "I hope a sPitt player dnt Try to shake my hand. I will laugh and walk off."
Irvin did not back off of his comments when reporters asked about them ... well, at least until he realized that there were tape recorders and microphones in front of him.
"Those guys up the road, we don't talk about them in the locker room," Irvin said. "Only time we talk about them is the week before, and that is a hell week. It is a really serious, hated rivalry. [The Twitter message] is what it is, they know it. I mean, I don't want to give ya'all nothing to put in the paper because I know that's what ya'all are looking for but it is what it is.
"They Pitt, we are West Virginia and there are a lot of years and blood, sweat and tears go into this rivalry. So, we're just trying to carry on the tradition, and like I said, we don't [talk] to those guys."
When asked what he thought about Irvin's comments, Pitt defensive end Brandon Lindsey said that Irvin will have to back his words up on the field.
"We don't care nothing about that," Lindsey said. "There is no reason to say stuff like that in August, we don't see them until November, and we will talk about that then. There is nowhere to hide on a football field, and he still has to go up against our tackles and guards, so I wouldn't add any fuel to the fire."
West Virginia was picked to win the conference in the annual preseason poll of media members who regularly cover the league. The Mountaineers received 21 of the 24 first-place votes and 188 points in the poll.
They were followed by Pitt (two first-place votes, 162 points), South Florida (one first-place vote, 151), Syracuse (98), Cincinnati (96), Connecticut (76), Louisville (60) and Rutgers (33).
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is entering his 11th season with the Scarlet Knights, and that makes him by far the most tenured head coach in the league.
The second is Syracuse's Doug Marrone, and he is entering his third season.
"New Jersey is where I am from, I came home to do this job," Schiano said. "I've been blessed where my kids have grown up and have gone to the same schools. Not many [coaches] can say their kids have grown up in the same town and know only one home and that, to me, is priceless.
"So, for some, [coaching in the Big East] may be a stepping stone, but, for me, it is not."
First-year Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni is the only one in the conference who has coached a team in a BCS bowl game, though he was the head coach of Syracuse, not the Huskies.
Pasqualoni led the Orange to the 1999 Orange Bowl but was fired after the 2004 season and has spent the past six years coaching in the NFL.
"This league is a very, very different league than it was in 1991 and 1992 when we first started football," Pasqualoni said.
"In those years, we had a dominant team in our conference [Miami] which won nine of the first 13 championships. This league now, is a league of all good teams. This league is made up of good players and outstanding programs."
Louisville's players did not make it to media day because of weather-related travel issues. "I don't know if they were scared or what," Louisville coach Charlie Strong quipped. ... In addition to Lindsey, the Pitt players chosen to attend media day with Graham were defensive lineman Myles Caragein, safety Jarred Holley and receiver Mike Shanahan.
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org .