As you've probably seen by now, Pitt and Penn State announced yesterday that they were extending their two-game series into a four-game deal, with two games at each spot. Here's a link to the story from today's P-G. Most of the stuff on PSU is covered in the story, but Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson also had a few other scheduling nuggets on a conference call with reporters yesterday.
- One of the first questions that comes up whenever Pitt makes a scheduling announcement is what it means about a possible renewal of the Backyard Brawl rivalry with West Virginia. In this case, not much. Pederson said he spoke with West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck briefly when it looked like the two teams might meet in the Pinstripe Bowl, but that's about it. It doesn't sound like there's much significant traction to get it restarted in the near future, although Pederson did say now that the Penn State series (his No. 1 scheduling goal) was squared away, Pitt can get moving on some other games. Pederson indicated that it would be unlikely that Pitt would play both West Virginia and Penn State in the same year.
"I think we’ll continue to maintain contact and discuss some of these things going forward, but there’s still a lot for us to know going forward, including the years that we’ll be playing Notre Dame as part of the ACC, and so forth," Pederson said. "A lot of that still needs to be ironed out before we can make a lot of future plans in a lot of cases."
- Speaking of those Irish, it is possible that Pitt could have Penn State and Notre Dame on the same schedule moving forward. Pitt and Notre Dame have a contract that runs through 2016 right now, and Pederson said he expected the teams to fulfill that deal. After that, Pitt will go into the rotation with the rest of the ACC as part of the conference's agreement with Notre Dame to play five games a year. It's still TBD when, exactly, Notre Dame will join the ACC, but it sounds like it'll likely be 2014.
- Pederson also said he's in talks with other BCS-level schools to schedule home-and-home series over the next few years (similar to the Iowa series). Like with West Virginia, the priority was to get Penn State done and squared away, and now they can move forward with negotiations elsewhere. With all the conference movement going on, Pederson said he would prefer to work with teams who are solid in their conference (again, like Iowa).
"We’ve tried to look forward with people who we think are solid and committed in their conference and you know where they’re going to be," Pederson said. "I think that, overall, has been our plan. Let’s get some institutions that we think will be pretty settled at that time and we can all move forward together."
- Now that Louisville has slid into the ACC to take Maryland's spot, Pederson said he expects the ACC conference schedule to be released fairly soon. The only intrigue here is to see what Pitt's home/road split is and who the Panthers will play in their rotating crossover game. It could mean Florida State or Clemson coming to Heinz Field next year (or Pitt traveling to either of those schools).
"I think they’re getting closer," Pederson said of the conference announcing its schedule. "Obviously they got dealt an unusual circumstance by having to kind of look to the future of what will happen with the membership of the league. I don’t get the impression that’s too far away."
- As far as Pitt's schedule, the Panthers still have one non-conference game left to fill in. They have Villanova and Notre Dame as home games, and Navy on the road set. Pederson said the fourth game will be against a Division I-A team, so they won't have two I-AAs like this year. From everything I've heard, I would expect a home game against a MAC-level team.
- Not scheduling related, but Pederson said he was not concerned this past week about Paul Chryst leaving for the vacant Wisconsin job.
"When he issued the statement Tuesday night, he never varied from that with me," Pederson said. "He was committed to Pitt, he said he was committed to Pitt. He didn’t waver on that, and so I appreciate the kind of person that he is and I appreciate his consistency and the way he approaches everything that he does."
Pederson also said he was very optimistic about the future of the program, even more than he has been in recent years.
"I can’t imagine really feeling more optimistic about where we’re heading than I do right now," he said. "Certainly, we’ve got the right guy. He’s hired a terrific staff. I think our players are doing the things he’s asking them to do. He’s doing a good job recruiting, so I think all the way around, it’s where you’d like your program to be, particularly as we head into another conference and moving the program forward. It’s all heading in the right direction and I feel very good about where we’re going."