It's been a big week for the Pitt football program. Not that a 6-6 season is completely satisfying, there is a heightened sense of optimism thanks to a 27-3 win over South Florida, a fifth consecutive bowl berth, Paul Chryst staying at Pitt despite rumors that he's a candidate for the vacant Wisconsin head coaching position.
Friday, the school announced an extension of its series with Penn State. In June of 2011, the two schools agreed on a two-year series to be played in 2016 and 2017. Today, the two teams announced the series would carry on into the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Pitt and Penn State will meet on September 10, 2016 and September 16, 2017 in State College. A September 8, 2018 game has been added, along with a September 14, 2019 game in State College.
"We're very pleased to be able to extend this series two more consecutive," Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said. It's great for our state, great for our city. With all the changes going on, these rivalries are getting to be fewer and fewer. For anyone looking at it, this is a game anyone would like to see. We're excited to get this done.
Pederson acknowledged a good working relationship already with new Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner, and first year head coach Bill O'Brien.
"I appreciate how easy it was it to get this done," Pederson said. "I've enjoyed getting to know Dave Joyner. He and Coach O'Brien, we totally agreed this was a good thing to get this done. When both people try to get to the same result, it's pretty easy.
"Both of us have been dealing with change of conference, available non-conference games. Once this got settled, it moved quickly. I'm glad this is a strong relationship. Hopefully it leads to future games as well."
With Pitt heading into the ACC, its schedule has a chance to become much more competitive than it's been in recent years. Pederson said there have been talks between him and Oliver Luck about getting the West Virginia game back on schedule, but nothing for the foreseeable future. It's unlikely Pitt would play West Virginia and Penn State in the same year. He did add the Notre Dame series will go through 2016, and its renewal is contingent upon how Notre Dame's move to the ACC works out.
"We'll continue to maintain contact," Pederson said, citing West Virginia. "There's still a lot for us to go forward, including years we'll be playing Notre Dame.
"We don't know when Notre Dame would come into the ACC. We have a contract to play through '16. We'll then of course go into a rotation with everyone else, so we'll have to figure that out with everyone else. Now that we know Louisville is the replacement for Maryland, we'll draw some more definitions."
For the 2013 non-conference slate, Pitt has home games with Villanova and Notre Dame and a road game at Navy. With one non-conference slot available, Pederson did say that game would be an FBS opponent.
He's also getting a sense that Pitt's first ACC slate of opponents will be announced soon.
"I think they're getting closer," Pederson added. "They got dealt an unusual set of circumstances, with the membership. They had to take another closer look at things. I don't get the impression we're too far away."
Pederson had his own set of circumstances this week, with Chryst's name being linked to the Wisconsin job. He said his conversations with Chryst have only been about moving forward at Pitt. He not only sounds optimistic about Chryst's future at Pitt, but where the program is heading.
"I can't imagine feeling more optimistic with where we are right now," Pederson said. "We got the right guy. I think the players are doing the things he's asking them to do. He's moving the program forward. It's all heading in the right direction.
"I was with Paul shortly after the Wisconsin job came open. When he issued the statement Tuesday night, he never wavered with me. He didn't waver on that. I appreciate the kind of person he is, and everything he does. Our conversations were consistent from the first day we ever talked about this job. He's only worried about our team, recruiting, and the bowl game. I was moving right along with him. We love having him here. We'd like for him to be here for a long time."