Why? First, the series has been dormant for years, leaving out an entire generation of young Pitt and Penn State fans, resulting in apathy toward the series. Beyond this, the series hasn't had any true national relevance since Pitt dropped off the national scene in the early 1980s. Since 1984 Penn State and Pitt have played 13 times, seven of those Pitt teams didn't have a winning record, while none had less than three losses.
Over the course of the 96 times Pittsburgh and Penn State have clashed 68 percent of the games were played in Pittsburgh. Think about that; for every 10 games played, nearly seven were played on Pitt's home field.
This is not just a case of having the balance of a few games in a home-and-home series off a bit. This is a situation where Penn State had to play nearly 70 percent of the games away from home. Despite this obvious disadvantage to the Nittany Lions, they still own 52 percent of the overall victories.
At home they own a stellar 74 percent win rate. Imagine what the overall record would be if the entire series were played in true home-home fashion.
A No-Win Situation
With no intended disrespect to Pitt, I don't see what Penn State gains from the renewal of the series. In terms of attendance, Penn State ranked No. 4 nationally, with an average of 104,859 fans per game. Pitt on the other hand saw 38 percent of PSU's total according to the NCAA and ranked No. 56 nationally with 40,272 fans per game.
Yes, Penn State could absolutely help to achieve a rare college football sellout at Heinz Field, but that would still only be 64,450 seats compared to the 107,282 seats at Beaver Stadium.
Some point to enhanced Pittsburgh recruiting as an added benefit to Penn State playing in the Iron City. However, this hasn't exactly been a detriment for the Nittany Lions recently, having landed Sean Lee, Justin King, Travis McBride, Dontey Brown, Anthony Morelli, Tyrell Sales and Paul Posluszny in their last four recruiting classes.
So I fail to see the clear benefit to PSU from renewing the series. Sure PSU can drive a sellout for Pitt and help "boost Pitt's season-ticket sales," especially with its tactic of requiring Nittany Lion fans to purchase multiple game tickets to gain access to the PSU game, but why should Penn State penalize its own fans with this? Again, all the benefits seem to suit Pitt well, but do zero for PSU.
While I can appreciate Neil Rudel's proposed compromise in which he stated:
"Here's a compromise: Pitt should offer to play Penn State 10 times as the season opener, beginning in 2010 with six games at Beaver Stadium and four at Heinz Field. The renewal of the series can start at University Park and end there in 2019, and it will seem like a home-and-home."
Penn State is owed 25 games in the series, so the two proposed extra contests at Beaver Stadium don't even make a dent in the total that Pitt owes PSU. At that rate, it would take 120 years under this proposed compromise to balance out the series.
Some would say that the reason Penn State played a majority of games at Pittsburgh was simply due to PSU "needing" Pitt early on. That is a debate for another time and place, but if that is the case, then it looks like the teams have experienced a paradigm shift where the Panthers now need the Nittany Lions to fill Heiz Field and sell season tickets. Fair's fair.