Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes sat down with the media on Wednesday morning. Here’s my five takeaways from what Barnes had to say.
PITT STILL WANTS TO PLAY PENN STATE
Badly. But Barnes is realistic. Penn State will be playing a a nine-game Big Ten schedule and already has at least one Power Five opponent booked every season through 2025.
Barnes had some hope that a deal could get done, but basically said the ball is in Penn State’s court. I asked if the Nittany Lions’ future schedule was the sticking point, and Barnes deferred to Sandy Barbour, saying “we have no sticking point.”
WEST VIRGINIA SEEMS LIKE PLAN B
Barnes admitted that the decision to schedule West Virginia from 2022 to 2025 was in response to not being able to schedule Penn State during those years.
If the Panthers and Nittany Lions aren’t able to consummate a deal in the late 2020s, expect the Panthers to pursue something with the Mountaineers during that time frame.
Barnes said given the option, he’d prefer to play an in-state rival, but that one rivalry game (he included Notre Dame in that, too) per season is probably the “sweet spot”
Pitt only has one season through 2026 right now where that’s the case: 2021, when they will visit Tennessee.
NO AND NO
Barnes was pretty demonstratively against playing a 2-for-1, with two games in State College and one game in Pittsburgh, saying “that would never, ever be on the table.”
He also didn’t sound interested in a neutral site game with Penn State in football, as the basketball team is playing this fall, preferring home and home arrangements for rivalry games.
Barnes did say that a non-conference game at a neutral site is something he’s discussed with the coaching staff, but would only consider that game against a non-rival team.
NINE GAMES ON THE HORIZON?
A few months ago, Barnes was pretty decidedly on the fence about the ACC scheduling debate between eight and nine conference games going forward.
Now, it seems that Barnes is at least leaning towards nine games, although he said he couldn’t say how he would vote right now if he had to.
“It’s starting to make me reconsider,” he said. “I’m not confident in the number of available games in the next 10 years. There’s fewer games than I’d hoped.”
GET THERE EARLY
The Panthers are expecting nearly 70,000, and they hope fans arrive early. They will have tailgating booths, games, music and more as part of the ACC Tailgate Tour starting at 9 a.m. Those events will be hosted by former Pitt quarterback Rod Rutherford.
Inside the gates, there will be a military flyover before kickoff and the 1976 National Championship team will be honored at the end of the first quarter. Over 80 members of the team are scheduled to be in attendance, including Johnny Majors and Tony Dorsett.
Former head coach Walt Harris — who beat the Nittany Lions in 2000 — will be the team’s honorary captain.