Games have been announced for the annual SEC-Big East Challenge and the Pitt Panthers will be staying home for the event. Not in the sense that athletic director Steve Pederson had hoped for, though.
The Panthers, expecting a home date with an SEC foe, were left out of the entire event. A few other schools are also sitting at home, but Pitt's omission is notable because of Pitt's current lawsuit against the conference and also because the school was initially led to believe it would be a part of the event:
"We were led to believe we had a home game all along," Pederson said. "At no point were we told that we wouldn't get a home game. They've put us in a difficult spot. All Jamie and I were waiting on was who we were playing. We're very disappointed, obviously."
Gavitt said calling a personal friend in Dixon to tell him the news was one of the hardest calls he has had to make during his tenure in the league.
"We went on the road last year, and there was a clear assumption that if we went on the road that we would get a return," Pederson said. "I feel bad for our players. We have a hole on our schedule that we have to fill now."
Current Big East commissioner Dan Gavitt also said that Pitt's lawsuit against the conference had nothing to do with the team being left out of the event.
Here's the kicker, though. According to a Missouri beat writer, the SEC tried to find a way for all 14 of their teams to be able to play. That would have expanded the schedule by an additional two games, giving the conference another chance to include Pitt. However, the SEC was apparently getting no help from the Big East in trying to schedule additional games.
Regardless of what Gavitt says, it's almost a given that the lawsuit affected things. There's no other plausible reason that Pitt went from expecting to play in the event to not even being told ahead of time it would be left out. ESPN didn't print any elaboration of why Pitt was left out - presumably because Gavitt offered none. Gavitt said there were other reasons why Pitt wasn't included and it be interesting to hear some of those.
It's understandable on the part of the Big East to play hardball with Pitt and leave them out of the event. However, if you're Pederson and now left scrambling to find an opponent to replace what was anticipated to be a marquee game, it makes things difficult.
For more on Pitt basketball, check out SB Nation's Pitt blog, Cardiac Hill.