6:00pm: Sportsline with Tony Caridi

New ADs prioritize resumption of Backyard Brawl

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia and Pitt have agreed to resume the Backyard Brawl with a four-game series from 2022-2025.

Heinz Field will host in 2022 and 2024, with the odd-year games coming to Milan Puskar Stadium.

The schools’ new athletics directors announced the decision Thursday, and their newness no doubt contributed to the resumption of a series that began in 1895 and stalled in 2011 amid the dissolution of the Big East. After a reported rift developed between former WVU athletics director Oliver Luck and now-fired Pitt AD Steve Pederson, Shane Lyons made rescheduling the Brawl a priority from the moment he was hired in Morgantown in January. Pitt subsequently filled its vacancy by hiring Scott Barnes from Utah State in April.

Barely four months later, the series has a relaunch date. The games as currently scheduled:

Sept. 17, 2022       at Pittsburgh
Sept. 16, 2023       at West Virginia
Sept. 14, 2024       at Pittsburgh 
Sept. 13, 2025       at West Virginia


“We all know how conference realignment ended some long-standing rivalries, which have made the sport so special,” Lyons said. “Today, we are able to bring back one of the oldest rivalries in college football.

“I want to thank Pitt athletics director Scott Barnes for his commitment to renewing this series, which I believe is great for both schools. With the two universities being in different conferences, it was hard to find dates that worked for both, but we were able to accomplish our goal and come away with a four-game series.”

Along with Pitt negotiating to restart its series with Penn State, Barnes said he quickly learned “there is a lot of passion surrounding (the Brawl) and we’re pleased to be able to rekindle that history.”

He added: “Everyone wins when two great series like Pitt-Penn State and Pitt-West Virginia are renewed.”

While Pitt leads the Brawl 61-40-3, West Virginia won the most recent meeting 21-20 in 2011. The following year the Mountaineers bolted the Big East for the Big 12.

The “Backyard Brawl” started in 1895 and was played for 104 years until it ended in 2011 after a 21-20 WVU victory in Morgantown. Earlier that season Pitt announced it was leaving for the ACC, and not long after, West Virginia jumped to the Big 12.

Luck threw some administrative gas on the rivalry during October 2011 at the height of the realignment frenzy:

“My sense is (Pitt) will be interested in maintaining the football rivalry with us. We bring 25,000 fans to Heinz Field. We fill it up. Pitt is not filling up Heinz Field on their own, so that game from a financial perspective is pretty important to them.”

Then Pitt’s ticketing department pointed out that WVU did not sell its entire visitors’ allotment for the 2010 game at Heinz field.

MetroNews learned recently that staffers at both schools were working in 2013 to relaunch the series by 2016. (Text messages reviewed by MetroNews regarding those negotiations revealed that then-Pitt coach Paul Chryst gave it the go-ahead on his end.) That potential six-game agreement, however, died at the AD level. (A West Virginia source said Luck didn’t finalize it.) Two months before Luck’s departure for an NCAA position last December, Pitt announced it had scheduled a home-and-home against Marshall for 2016 and 2020.

In a text message exchange with a WVU staffer that day, a Pitt official explained the move: “Needed a game. Mountaineers would not play.”

Now, they will. The Brawl is back. And you’ve got seven years to get amped about it.

Dana Holgorsen’s acronym-laced Tweet set the tone early:

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