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Saunders: Pitt Looks Worse and Worse on City Game

Saunders: Pitt Looks Worse and Worse on City Game

Every time the subject of the City Game gets brought up, Pitt looks worse and worse.

In March, when PSN first reported that the game was in danger of not being played, Pitt responded by making an agreement to play the game in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

The game being canceled in 2019, breaking a 40-year streak of it being played at least once annually, was a disappointing result for those that cared about the game, but the seeming fact that the schools had an agreement to resume after a one-year hiatus satiated most.

With Duquesne off to a 9-0 start for the first time in several decades, for the first time in a long time, a 2019 version of the City Game might have been truly competitive, in a good way. The Dukes are currently the No. 59 team in the country in adjusted efficiency, according to KenPom.com. Pitt, out to an 8-3 start, is No. 72.

Pitt head coach Jeff Capel was asked on Monday after Pitt’s win over Northern Illinois about not playing the Dukes this year, the first time he’d been asked to broach the topic. It was not the best time for the question, coming off a comeback Pitt win over NIU. But Capel’s previous media availability had been on Dec. 5, and without a future one expected before the holidays.

Forgivably, Capel was unhappy with the line of questioning at the time and didn’t give a particularly lengthy or thoughtful answer as to why the teams aren’t playing this season. Given a chance to expand on the topic on 93.7 The Fan on Thursday, Capel did not do much better.

Not only was he noncommittal about the future of the game in general, Capel seemed to suggest that the already announced 2020 and 2021 games are still on the table, at least in his mind.

“It’s something going forward, that we could do, but that’s a decision that will be made by me after our season is over with this year,” he said.

Yikes. Given what has already occurred, if the Panthers were to go back on playing Duquesne next year, the blow-back would be severe. Part of that is because Capel or anyone else at Pitt (Hello, Heather Lyke? It’s your friends in the media. We haven’t heard from you in months.) has yet to fully address the reason for the interruption.

Capel insisted that he isn’t afraid to play Duquesne — or anybody — but that some combination of playing at Robert Morris, West Virginia, the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and an exempt tournament prevented him from scheduling the Dukes.

Anyone with a handy copy of the teams’ schedules can see that just isn’t true.

Pitt played Nicholls State on Dec. 9, with Duquesne in the midst of six off days between games. Pitt played NIU on Dec. 16, with the Dukes in the middle of another six-day break. Both teams have the entire week of Christmas off. Pitt is playing Canisius on a weekday at noon on Monday, Dec. 30. You can’t possibly tell me THAT game, which might have an attendance in the hundreds, is more attractive for the Pitt fanbase than playing Duquesne, any day the Dukes were free.

That’s just this year. No one has given any reason for not playing Duquesne in perpetuity, other than Capel’s vague statement about doing what’s best for the program.

As if that would somehow involve not playing Duquesne. People care about the City Game. There’s a reason that the last playing of it in 2018 was Pitt’s highest-attended non-conference game in Pittsburgh since 2013, with more fans than even games against Power Five rival West Virginia.

It can’t be all Duquesne fans, who have attended so few games at A.J. Palumbo Center over the years it makes one wonder if the school is replacing some seats that have never been used in the ongoing renovation there.

There is legitimate interest in the City Game from Pitt fans and boosters and the city at large.

A one-year hiatus, even if poorly timed, is something most fans could deal with. Pitt walking away from an agreement to play the best rivalry game it has, while at the same time complaining about Penn State doing the same in football, would be short-sighted and hypocritical to the extreme.

Pitt should play Duquesne every year and has yet to provide one coherent reason for failing to do so. Duquesne fans are claiming that Pitt is afraid to lose to the Dukes. Capel insists he is not afraid to play Duquesne or anyone. But if he really wants people to believe that, he could prove it by committing to playing the game.

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DUQ20
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DUQ20

Well written. Amen

Mike Vukovcan
Admin

Thank you

Pretzel Rod Rutherford
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Pretzel Rod Rutherford

YAWN. Whether Pitt beats the Dukes (they’re 36-4 in my lifetime) or some other tune-up team makes no difference to me. I understand it may mean more for alumni who grew up (or remain) in the city.

Comparing PSU v. Pitt Football (a rivalry that for a time carried national implications) to a Pitt v. Duq. rivalry that to my knowledge has never meant anything outside the City of Pittsburgh is a stretch. I can see the difference between the two without being “hypocritical to the extreme”

Kirk Blazic
Guest
Kirk Blazic

Agreed 100%. I’m not a Pittsburgh guy, but got both my undergrad and masters at Pitt. I don’t recall anyone at Pitt caring about a Duquesne game in the late 80’s/early 90’s and I was at just about every home game. Maybe it was a rivalry when they were both in the Eastern 8 and Grgurich and Rice were coaching their alma maters, but I’m not sure 36-4 in the last 40 meetings constitutes a rivalry. Comparing Pitt/Duquesne to Pitt/PSU is a stretch at best. Perhaps attendance is higher because PPG seats 7,000 more than Petersen?? I get the appeal… Read more »

Sean
Guest
Sean

You need to give this Pitt/Duquesne thing a rest. Yes, Duquesne is undefeated (congrats!) but who have they beat? Pitt’s non-conference schedule is more daunting and challenging, so why add in an extra game before getting into ACC play? Ok, so the fans (mostly Duquesne I’m sure) are PO’ed that there isn’t a “City Game”, but I’m sure that the players (Pitt) are enjoying the extra time off before the conference games begin.

Eddie Futch
Guest
Eddie Futch

Maybe Coach Capel does not want to play them period. No fear of losing, etc. that is actually silly since they lost 19 times last year. It is his perrogative. As a Pitt fan I could care less. That rivalry has been truly dead since Bruce Atkins and Sam Clancy moved on almost 40 years ago. The switch to the Big Easy helped kill it, too. I love how he has to explain to people why they are not playing. His is answer should simple. I do not want to. I do not need to and if you do not… Read more »

Eddie Futch
Guest
Eddie Futch

Duquesne fans thinking Pitt is afraid is trapped in a time machine. This is not the mid 70s guys! I find it hard to believe guys like Johnson and McGowens who went through a whole ACC season last year are afraid of a mid tier mid major. I was at the Pitt Duquesne game last year Unless I have amnesia, The Dukes were run out the building in the second half. Beating up on scrub teams to compile that record have given their fan base a false sense of things.

Pittband
Guest
Pittband

This is a rehash of Steigerwald’s PS Bull. We’re in the ACC (though it still means the All Carolina Conference). Playing Duquesne doesn’t do one thing for recruiting. If you can remember that far, the last Western Pennsylvania player that meant something to Pitt was DuJuan Blair (yeah the Butler County kids went elsewhere) but there is nothing to recruit here. I’ll take the fifth point guard to come out of New York City every year over anyone coming out of here. Move on.

Alan Saunders
Guest
Alan Saunders

What does playing Northern Illinois, Canisius, Nicholls State and Binghamton help with recruiting?

Eddie Futch
Guest
Eddie Futch

Sounds like you have an ax to grind with Capel and Pitt. And we wonder why no one wants to play or coach here long when a website devoted to the local schools gives you crap for making a decision HE thinks is right for HIS program. The guy is a God send for the program and they are on the right track. Who gives a crap about Duquesne? I don’t get it.

Alan Saunders
Guest
Alan Saunders

No ax to grind with anyone. I think not playing Duquesne in favor of the likes of NIU, Binghamton, Canisius and Nicholls is a poor, shortsighted decision, and Capel has not given any satisfactory reason for that action.

As for who gives a crap, it being Pitt’s best-selling non-conference game should make it pretty clear that more people in Pittsburgh give a crap about it than any other game Pitt could schedule.

kmp30
Guest
kmp30

Exactly. Thank you

Eddie Futch
Guest
Eddie Futch

He does not owe anyone an explanation. If he feels that it does not make sense to play them that is good enough for me. He works for Pitt and not the city of Pittsburgh. I have been to at least a dozen of those games. There is nothing special about them. Sorry.

kmp30
Guest
kmp30

I disagree. Yes it’s his program and he will do what he wants. But we dont have to agree with that decision and should certainly ask why someone who speaks of tradition and building blocks would disregard our only rivalry trophy, in any sport. Speaking of that, where are the banners at the Pete?

Michael Machadakis
Guest
Michael Machadakis

Kmp30 you must not be at The Pete much. Quite a few big east banners there for regular season champs as well as tourney champs. Also quite a few sweet 16 and elite 8 banners as well from this century. Duquesne banners are mainly from the Eisenhower and JFK era. Pitt played the city game this year against RMU. They opened their building for them. RMU over the last 35 years has had more success than Duquesne, too. Not sure why a series not important outside of this tiny city is such a big deal. 36-4 with many blow outs,… Read more »

kmp30
Guest
kmp30

Michael, you’re correct, I live quite far away and can only watch on tv. Someone told me the banners that used to hang inside the court at the end of the court were not there anymore. I know they’re still in the entry. Am I wrong? I hope so. I was asking a question. I know you personally dont think highly of the game but I enjoyed it as a student and I would prefer to play it over Binghamton. If they’re the same caliber then why not? Plus playing at a neutral site is always good experience. If the… Read more »

local_troll
Guest
local_troll

Alan why are you trying to run Capel out of town? Please try to leave your personal vendettas out of your articles.

Alan Saunders
Guest
Alan Saunders

I don’t want to run Jeff out of town, and I have no personal vendetta. I like Jeff. He’s a good coach and is great for Pitt. That doesn’t mean he’s always going to be right.

Smljf
Guest
Smljf

Good point.

I’m 52 – been a Pitt fan since 1976. The City Game NEVER did anything for me. Could care less.

If you want to criticize the manner in which Capel addressed the situation, have at it – he was not eloquent or composed but it’s his program. For the critics to tell him that his decision was not the correct choice, mind your own business.

Pittband
Guest
Pittband

Let’s see western Chicago, Buffalo, all Louisiana and upstate New York. That casts a pretty big net for future players as opposed to West Mifflin, Sto Rox and Irwin.

PittAlum
Guest
PittAlum

I dont hear many, if any, Pitt fans complaining about this at all. Its just a nonstarter.

Bob Cardy
Member
Bob Cardy

Agree 100%. I wish Duquesne well, but don’t care if Pitt plays them or not. They have not been a rival for decades, if even then. Devil’s advocate though, Pitt losing this year, if it were to happen, would be a set back to the program. Few people will remember a loss to Nichols State in November, but everyone would talk about losing to the Dukes for years. Maybe when Capel gets to where he wants the team to be, he will readress the series. But I don’t really care if he does or not. Do we sound like PSU… Read more »

Alan Saunders
Guest
Alan Saunders

Yes. Exactly like them, in fact. It’s sort of scary.

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