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Shane Lyons optimistic new ADs can relaunch ‘The Backyard Brawl’

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Mindful of resurrecting “The Backyard Brawl,” West Virginia athletics director Shane Lyons said he plans to reach out to Pitt once the Panthers settle on their new AD.

During an hour-long appearance on MetroNews “Sportsline” Monday night, Lyons said both programs could benefit from restarting the always-intense football series, which has been on hiatus since 2011 when conference realignment intervened.

Lyons replaced Oliver Luck as the Mountaineers’ athletics director in February. Pitt has yet to hire a successor for Steve Pederson, who was fired Dec. 17.

“That’s on my radar,” Lyons said, “Obviously at this point I’m kinda waiting to see who their athletic director is. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I have a relationship with that individual to be able to work something out.”

To that end, Pitt chancellor Patrick Gallagher told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he hopes the forthcoming AD gives “strong consideration” to scheduling West Virginia.

The schools have faced off 104 times, though even with more amicable leadership in place, No. 105 won’t be scheduled anytime soon. The Mountaineers have two games booked against quality FBS opponents for each of the next seven seasons, leaving one nonconference spot to be filled by a “cash game.” That means the next “Brawl” remains a distant endeavor.

“It’s not going to be two years from now,” Lyons said. “We’re probably looking at 2022 and ’23 to do a home-and-away, but I would love that.”

He sounded far less enthusiastic about renewing a series against Marshall. The teams have met 12 times overall, including seven consecutive years in “The Friends of Coal Bowl” from 2006 to 2012.

“It’s out there, but I’ve got to look at the big picture, at what’s best for West Virginia University and our scheduling model,” Lyons said. “We’ll look at it, (but) I’m not sure how that fits.”

After seeing Baylor’s college football playoff hopes burned by a paltry nonleague lineup, Lyons said he wants WVU’s strength-of-schedule to stand up to scrutiny “when, not if, we’re in that situation of being in the top four.”

The Mountaineers will make two trips to Landover, Md., to face BYU in 2016 and Virginia Tech in 2017, before facing Tennessee in Charlotte, N.C., in 2018. The neutral-site matchups, which essentially create an in-season bowl atmosphere, typically guarantee each team more revenue than it would gain from hosting a home game.

“Maybe I learned just a little bit at Alabama, (because) I kinda like the neutral-site games,” Lyons said. “I think we can get great opponents, you get great coverage for your brand, and you can go into some territories you’re not always in.”

Watch more of Lyons’ interview below: