A little over a year ago, Pitt and Penn State announced a two-year renewal of their indefinitely-postponed rivalry. Fans on both sides rejoiced at the unexpected news. Now, in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, some are wondering if Pitt should cancel the series out of principle. Joe Starkey, of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, weighed in Sunday:
Pitt could buy out of the renewal or mutually agree to nix it and look elsewhere ... it's a tough call.
Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson declined comment. I took that to mean that if Pitt were thinking about striking the games, this wouldn't be the right time to say so. And if it were leaning toward playing them and perhaps extending the series, well, this wouldn't be the right time to say so.
It's an interesting proposition, and something that has been discussed on message boards and around the Pitt blogosphere. Starkey links to a poll on the blog PittBlather that shows Pitt fans are still largely in favor of playing the Nittany Lions.
I understand how it can be easy for Pitt fans to act sanctimonious towards the Nittany Lions and their fans, especially after the Freeh Report and the penalties levied by the NCAA. Pitt fans might also cherish the thought of sticking it to the same Nittany Lions who have disrespected them in the past.
I agree with Starkey's assessment that Pitt should keep the series, but that doesn't mean Pitt is "taking the high road" or "giving Penn State a chance." Pitt should focus on itself and do what's best for the program. Keeping the Penn State series will preserve the buzz around the rivalry, not to mention help fill some seats. Also, it could lead to a long-term extension of the series. The fans need this rivalry and the venom is still out there. Have you read the message boards lately?
Pitt needs to keep the series, not because its the nice thing to do, but because its the smart thing to do for the program.