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Pitt Athletic Director Scott Barnes On Renewing The Pitt-Penn State Rivalry

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Keith Srakocic
/
AP
University of Pittsburgh Athletic Director Scott Barnes, right, talks with football coach Pat Narduzzi, left, before an NCAA college basketball game between Pittsburgh and Duke, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Pittsburgh.

University of Pittsburgh Athletic Director Scott Barnes said traditional rivalries like the one between Pitt and Penn State University are an essential part of college football. On the eve of the first gridiron clash between the Panthers and Nittany Lions in 16 years, Barnes sat down with 90.5 WESA’s Paul Guggenheimer to discuss Saturday's sold out game at Heinz Field and what the future holds for a rivalry that dates back to 1893.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity

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PAUL GUGGENHEIMER: Saturday marks the renewal of the Pitt-Penn State football rivalry that has been dormant for 16 years. What does having that game back mean for Pitt?

SCOTT BARNES: Well, rivalries are important for college football and I think that this rivalry and the history of it goes beyond even impacting the state of Pennsylvania. It’s great for college football so to have it back is exciting, it’s something our fans want, our student-athletes want we would to continue this in perpetuity. Obviously, there’s challenges in that regard in terms of future scheduling, but we think this is a great place to be. You know what’s happened with the conference realignment game that’s gone on for several years here, many of those rivalries have been broken up. So, to have one back on the map is very exciting.   

GUGGENHEIMER: Right now there’s no agreement in place for continuing this game beyond 2019. As far as you are concerned, how important is it that a Pitt-Penn State game is played every season?

BARNES: Well, we both have to manage our schedules, but certainly we want a rivalry game every year. We’ve renewed our rivalry with West Virginia, the “Backyard Brawl,” so that will come on line for a four-year series. And we hope to get on Penn State’s schedule and ours on theirs after that. Yet to be determined as we look at an eight or nine game ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) schedule, we’ve gotta just sort of keep our powder dry for a minute here and make sure we know what the future looks like in conference scheduling. And once we do that, we’ll have a clear understanding but whether we go eight or nine we can play a rivalry game every year and it’s just a matter of where and when in terms of the schedule. So, we want to get through the process here with the ACC in short order and hope that we can continue some conversations with Penn State about a future rivalry series.

GUGGENHEIMER: Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour has talked about the issue of negative recruiting being used against Penn State. That other schools recruiting Nittany Lions targets (high school football players) are using the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal to dissuade players from considering Penn State. What are your thoughts about negative recruiting and if you became aware that anyone on the Pitt staff was doing this, how would you handle it?

BARNES: Well, you know, first of all let’s take care of ourselves and how we conduct our business and make sure that what we’re doing is selling the attributes of our university. That’s what we do in every sport. We sell what we have because we’re so proud of what we have. And so negative recruiting isn’t part of our game plan and it doesn’t need to be. We have so many things to sell in terms of the ACC platform, vibrant programs, one of the best higher ed institutions in the country, unbelievable sports. There are so many things that are positive about what we can sell. We get recruits on campus and we hit home runs all the time in that regard. So, we’re excited about that. I’m not worried about it because that’s not what we do. If we were using a tactic of negative recruiting as sort of a strategy in our recruiting, we wouldn’t stand for it. That’s not who we are and that’s not what we need to do.